On Wednesday night, DePaul men’s basketball suffered an upset defeat at the hands of Illinois-Chicago, a game in which players and coaches lamented a lack of energy.
They found it again with a 24-4 run to open up their game on Saturday.
DePaul (6-4) crushed Chicago State (3-8) with a 109-61 victory.
“It’s pretty obvious we played very well today and partly so was just responding from Wednesday’s performance,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “Our offense was moving, we got in the paint the way we were supposed to and we kicked out and got open jump shots.”
Sophomore guard Eli Cain led the game with a career-high 31 points, while junior forward Tre’Darius McCallum had his best game as a Blue Demon with 18 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. McCallum said he’s been getting his confidence back on the floor.
“I had a slow start to the first half of the season,” McCallum said. “Just getting my confidence back, staying after practice, getting extra shots in and just getting back in my rhythm.”
The first few minutes, however, belonged to Cain. He was nearly unstoppable in the opening minutes as he went 4-4 from three in his first four shots and was instrumental in DePaul racing out to their lead. He was joined by McCallum who had ten first half points. Cain finished the half with 20 points. DePaul essentially had put the game out of reach as they led at the half 60-22.
“My team has just been finding me in places I know I can hit shots,” Cain said. “A lot of shots are just open, I’m not having to dribble a lot, my teammates are just finding me
It was the first time DePaul had 60 points in one half since 1999.
While the second half didn’t feature quite as many extensive runs by DePaul, they were still in full control. Cain set his new career high with more than nine minutes to go in the second half. DePaul hit 100 points with 3:43 to go in the game for their first 100 point game since 2011,
which was also against Chicago State. The Blue Demons finished with a 109-61 rout.
Leitao said the quick start was a combination of multiple factors, including a response to the UIC loss and to Chicago State’s narrow 68-64 loss to Northwestern on Wednesday, who DePaul was routed by earlier in the season.
“It was a conversation that the Northwestern score, based on both of us playing against them was a little bit of a wake up call to say ‘these guys have been competitive in a lot of games,'” Leitao said. “We’re not in a place we can assume anything when preparing for them.”
Leitao also mentioned how the Blue Demons didn’t let the early lead squander and instead built on it.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve started out that way,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll carelessly turn it over a time or two and a 9-2 start is a 9-7 and its a different mindset.”
The theme of the afternoon, however, was that the Blue Demons had put the UIC loss behind them.
“The practice after we lost to UIC was probably the toughest practice I’ve ever had at DePaul,” Cain said. “Coach really got on us and we knew ourselves we shouldn’t have lost to them. Tonight we just came out from the beginning, just aggressive and intense.”
The Blue Demons return to action Monday when they take on Southeastern Missouri State at Allstate Arena at 8 p.m.