DePaul came into its match up against Delaware State looking to bounce back from a 72-58 loss to number 14 Notre Dame and earn its first win at Wintrust Arena. DePaul had no problem doing just that as they handled the Hornets 81-57, led by Max Strus and Tre’Darius McCallum.
“Just to bounce back and get back on a winning streak,” said Strus on the team’s mindset coming into the game. “Saturday was unfortunate and it’s always going to be in the back of our minds (…) but you just have to move on and keep moving forward.”
DePaul wasted no time, getting a fast break layup from Devin Gage to open things up, which Max Strus followed with his own layup and then a three to put the Demons up 7-0.
As the lead grew, fans were greeted with a sight many remembered from the first game. Gage streaked down the floor on a fast break with a trailing teammate. He scooped his hand up as he lobbed up a pass behind his head. This time the pass was converted into two points by Tre’Darius McCallum, slamming it down for two of his seven first half points. Strus would later put in an oop of his own off a Gage pass, putting a punctuation mark on the 24-6 Demon lead with just under six minutes left.
DS would slowly close the lead. After a DePaul five second violation, the Hornet’s would bring the gap to three, 31-21. DePaul would score once more before the half was over to carry a 12-point lead into the half. McCallum and Strus lead the Demon’s with seven points each. Jalen Butz was a force on the glass, grabbing eight rebounds in nine minutes.
“He’s a great kid, one of the talented freshman we have,” said McCallum. “He doesn’t care about scoring, he just wants to rebound and play defense, so we need to have a player like him.”
The second half continued at a similar pace. DePaul would break out early as an opening 6-0 run had an exclamation point put on it by a poster slam from Strus. Once again, the Hornets would buzz back into it. With ten minutes left in the game, they brought the lead down to 11, 53-42.
The Blue Demons would then go on a quick 9-0 run, started with a couple of layups from Eli Cain and finished with a corner trey from McCallum, to put the game out of reach for good. The starters would mostly all have their day done by five minutes left and they would cruise to the end. Head coach Dave Leitao likened the mentality to keeping the pressure on in a blow out, to competing in every round in a boxing match.
“You have to be ready every second of every minute of every match, and if you’re not then you’re going to get hit like never before and you are going to lose,” Leitao said. “So, it’s taking that mentality and applying it to in our case basketball at a collegiate level. You have to get guys ready to perform at a specific level that is conducive to good performances and winning and do it over and over and over for forty minutes every night.”
Butz finished the game with 13 rebounds. Gage lead the team in assists and steals with eight and three respectively. Strus and McCallum lead the Demons in scoring, Strus with 15 on 6-8 shooting and McCallum with 17 on 7-12. After the game, Strus would say that his performance was still not as good as he wanted, but he was happy with the win. Strus also said that one of the takeways as far as things to work on, was the defense.
“We gave up too many points,” Strus said. “We did not really keep them out of the paint. I think our on-ball defense needs to get better, along with our help side.”
Next up, the Demons play the Fighting Illini of Illinois for their first road game of the season on Nov. 17.
“As a Big Ten school, I think they will put up a battle,” McCallum said. “We just have to go down there with a clear head and go to war.”