The DePaul men’s basketball team played a rare home game at McGrath-Phillips Arena and played host to the undefeated Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans. Despite being the home team, the Blue Demons (5-4) were embarrassed by the Trojans (8-0) from the opening minutes 66-44.
“I was extremely concerned coming into the game because of their style of play,” coach Dave Leitao said. “They’ve got 10 new players, but they play…like grizzled veterans. They play a style of play that forces you into some adverse situations…and we didn’t handle them as well as we needed to give ourselves a chance.”
Little Rock controlled the game in nearly every aspect and showcased why they are 8-0 on the season. The Trojans forced 20 turnovers and outscored the Blue Demons 27-2 off of turnovers. The visitors’ bench also outscored DePaul’s bench 27-4. These categories alone are enough to completely alter a game, but together, they led to the blowout.
“When you’re not playing well on one side of the floor, the other side begins to slip too,” Leitao said. “Our offense became stagnant and a little bit disorganized and as a result, they did what every good team I’ve ever seen does and they took great advantage of it. Because we got frustrated, we tried to drive the basketball without moving the defense and when there are people standing right there, that’s why you get turnovers.”
Myke Henry’s 16 points led DePaul, though he scored 12 of them in the first half. Eli Cain and Tommy Hamilton IV were the only other Blue Demons who really had notable nights, aside from Billy Garrett Jr. who was held scoreless the entire game aside from the final second basket at the end of the first half.
Garrett Jr. barely featured in the second half because his lingering hamstring injury was acting up and Leitao didn’t feel like risking him in a blowout loss. Rashaun Stimage was ruled out before the game even started with a concussion suffered earlier, which Leitao says he will be assessed in the coming days to see what his availability is for future games.
It was an overall disappointing performance by the Blue Demons and they’ll look to rebound on the road against Stanford. Leitao believes like the team just needs to find its identity and the results will come from there.
“Whatever and whoever we are and will be, we’ve got to believe in that. It’s easy when the ball’s going into the basket to believe in things, it’s easy to be confident when things are going your way, but good players and good teams believe in themselves at the most adverse situations,” Leitao said. “That’s the simplicity of life, that’s not even a basketball issue.”
“It’s not going to get any easier at any point from here on out. We’ve got to come back here tomorrow, we’ve got to work our tail off and get on a plane and go out to the west coast and face a good team there.”