The Blue Demons opened the second half with a burst of energy that temporarily caused the tide to swing. DePaul men’s basketball attacked the rim, was aggressive on the glass and drained shots to give them a 38-32 lead over No. 23 Butler. On senior day and amid a five-game losing streak, senior Jamee Crockett led the charge.
But like most of the games Crockett has played over his four years at DePaul, this one ended with the same result — a loss.
Butler went on a 26-6 run over the course of eight minutes and Butler guard Kellan Dunham scored 24 points to give DePaul a 67-53 loss in the Blue Demons’ final home game of the season. The Blue Demons (12-18, 6-11 Big East) tied their largest losing streak of the season with six consecutive defeats.
Crockett, who was DePaul’s leading scorer with 20 points, said that Butler’s run was the result of his teammates having “different agendas.”
“People weren’t fighting hard, and you can’t do that against a good team,” Crockett said. “People were just going 1-on-1 and trying to get theirs. They were over aggressive and we turned the ball over. Like I said, good teams take advantage of stuff like that.”
Crockett, DePaul’s only four-year senior, said that the coaching staff stressed at halftime and in days prior to the game to try and get one last home win for the seniors. Before the game, Crockett, Forrest Robinson and Greg Sequele —two seniors who transferred in from junior colleges in 2013 — were honored at half court.
On the court, it was much of the same type of basketball that’s resulted in DePaul losing the last nine of their last ten games. Butler out-rebounded DePaul 36-19, including grabbing three offensive rebounds in the first few minutes to open the game on a 7-0 run.
“I’m very disappointed we weren’t able to get a win for our seniors today,” DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said. “I thought our rebounding situation hurt us again … We missed some shots (after going ahead) in the second half which I thought deflated us on the other end in terms of guarding and finishing off the rebounds.”
The game started to spiral out of control when Purnell was called for a technical foul midway through the second half. Dunham nailed two free throws and got the ball, which the Bulldogs hit two more from the charity stripe to cut DePaul’s lead to two.
Free throws played a huge part as well for the Bulldogs. Butler finished 22-of-27 from the line and DePaul finished with just 10 attempts (6-of-10).
“We knew DePaul plays a lot of guys and they are very physical,” Butler head coach Chris Holtman said. “They have a lot of depth so our ability to get to the line was really important.”
There were multiple points where DePaul faced a 10-point deficit or larger with the Blue Demons crawling back twice from them in the first. DePaul erased a 24-14 lead with a 10-0 run where the Blue Demons were able to penetrate the inside. Butler went into the locker room with a 29-24 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Blue Demons started to get frustrated and shots weren’t falling after Butler regained the lead with just under ten minutes to go. To make matters worse, DePaul sophomore guard Billy Garrett took hard falls on separate occasions and grabbed his back each time.
The injury bothered Garrett, who finished 2-of-5 for seven points. Purnell said he thinks Garrett should be fine in the long run, but added that his star point guard will be sore in the morning.
For Butler, Dunahm had another spectacular game after scoring 24 points in the first meeting Feb. 7. The Bulldogs also got valuable contributions from forwards Roosevelt Jones (16 points) and Kameron Woods (14 points) as well. The team as a whole shot 48 percent.
The Blue Demons finished 9-7 at home this season. The Blue Demons are stuck at 12 wins, a mark that Purnell hasn’t eclipsed throughout his five years.
To get to 13, Purnell said his team has to find a solution on the glass.
“As we look towards Marquette, we have to find a way to rebound better so we don’t get in such a big hole,” Purnell said.
But there’s no denying that at the end of the season, the Blue Demons have lost their way once again.
“I guess it’s a lack of heart,” Crockett said. “We still have the Big East tournament to look forward to so we’re not looking back. We’re looking forward so we can make some noise in the Big East tournament.”
DePaul travels to Marquette to conclude their regular season March 7 at 1 p.m. The Big East tournament will be March 11 – 14 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
DePaul set a a team-record Saturday with most 3-pointers in a single season with 238 in a season.
The Blue Demons also honored their 2015 hall of fame class at halftime with Quentin Richardson being the main standout among them.