DePaul men’s basketball falls to Seton Hall on senior day

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DePaul men’s basketball falls to Seton Hall on senior day

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Aaron Simpson hung his head, covered in a towel, as he walked down the tunnel of Allstate Arena. Simpson, a senior, couldn’t hide his disappointment after being ejected on a Flagrant-2 call for pushing Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington.

Suddenly, Simpson’s last home game was over.

For DePaul, who trailed 58-52 with nine minutes left, the game hung in the balance.

“I said it during the timeout that we had after the flagrant-2, that someone was going to take control of the game,” DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. “I was implored our guys … it’s going to be the most aggressive team.”

On senior day, Seton Hall became the aggressors. Isaiah Whitehead couldn’t be stopped.

DePaul’s defense collapsed and watched as Seton Hall (22-8, 12-6 Big East) took over in an 80-66 loss Saturday to close out the regular season.

Whitehead, Seton Hall’s star, made a case for himself as one of the best players in the Big East, scoring a career-high 33 points while draining six 3-pointers.

“It just goes to what can and should happen in this game,” Leitao said. “You go back a year ago and you could say anything you want negatively about Seton Hall’s chemistry, and it was probably true.

“They’ve corrected themselves and made some adjustments mentally, and on their roster … They’ve bought in. They’ve bought into what (Seton Hall head coach) Kevin (Willard) has been teaching. When you have good chemistry, you have a much better chance.”

Leitao’s words weren’t a shot at his team, but they definitely held weight as DePaul’s head coach continues to try and lay a foundation in his first year back. The Blue Demons finished 9-21 in the regular season, three wins less than the record that led Oliver Purnell to resign last year.

Leitao said he spent most of the season building accountability and structure.
“There are days where it looks really good, not just in the performances on the court, but guys helping each other,” Leitao said. “There are times where it hasn’t. You can’t have inconsistencies.”

Saturday’s matchup against Seton Hall featured the inconsistencies that have bothered the Blue Demons all season. DePaul closed Seton Hall’s lead in stretches, but every time they drew within striking distance, Whitehead took over.

Whitehead erupted for 25 points in the second half. After Simpson’s ejection, the Pirates went on a 12-3 run that ballooned their lead.

“When he gets in that zone where he’s feeling it, there’s not much anyone can do,” Willard said. “Him and Khadden, they played in the second half really well.”

It was the second straight game DePaul allowed more than 80 points, a mark they’ve let up in six of their last seven losses. Seton Hall shot a staggering 59 percent, and hit 12 3-pointers throughout.
It was also another year where the Blue Demons didn’t get a win on senior day. DePaul honored five seniors before the game — Simpson, Myke Henry, Rashuan Stimage, David Molinari and Cory Dolins.

Of those five, Henry and Stimage had the biggest impact during the course of the game. Henry finished with 15 points and four rebounds while Stimage had seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks. DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. led the Blue Demons with 18 points.

Now with the regular season over, DePaul will shift their attention to the Big East tournament, where they will take on either Marquette or Georgetown on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“We still want to go in there and be the aggressors,” Henry said.