PREVIEW: DePaul meets Oregon in second round of PK80 Invitational


Paul Steeno, Sports Reporter

After a disappointing loss against the Michigan State Spartans on the first day of the PK80 Invitational tournament in Portland, Ore. last night, the DePaul Blue Demon men’s basketball team will get a shot at redemption tonight against the Oregon Ducks.

The game begins at 8:30 p.m. CDT and will air on ESPNU and can be heard on the radio at WSCR 670 AM.

DePaul has started the season 1-3 with losses to the No. 13  ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a road loss to the University of Illinois, and then a loss yesterday against Michigan State. Last night against the No. 4 ranked Spartans, DePaul went into the half tied, but Michigan State dominated the second half en route to a comfortable 73-51 victory. After rolling his ankle just after halftime in the Blue Demons game against Illinois last Friday, DePaul’s starting point guard Devin Gage played 33 minutes and scored eight points against Michigan State.

Although he hasn’t been able to find his 3-point shooting stroke this season (25.9 percent from that range), Division II transfer Max Strus leads the Blue Demons in scoring with 13.3 points per game. Strus (32.5 percent from the field) and junior Eli Cain (11.3 points per game on 36.2 percent from the field) lead the Blue Demons in scoring, although they haven’t shot the ball particularly efficiently. The free throw line is one place where Strus has shot the ball efficiently, as he has made 20 of his 22 free-throw attempts this season. Last night against Michigan State, he shot a perfect 10-for-10 from the charity stripe which marked just the 24th time in program history where a player made at least ten free throws without missing.

Last season, the Oregon Ducks advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1939, but have lost their five leading scorers from that team this season. They’ve started the season 4-1 against mostly inferior, mid-major competition. Until their 71-63 loss to the University of Connecticut yesterday, Oregon’s average margin of victory was 32.8 points.

Sophomore guard Payton Pritchard leads the team in scoring with 12.8 points per game, and four other Ducks have averaged double-digit scoring this season. The Ducks calling card has been on the defensive end as they’ve held opponents to 34.1 percent from the field this season which is the 11th-best mark in the NCAA. Even in the loss to Connecticut, Oregon held the Huskies to 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 17.6 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line.

Depending on the outcome of the game tonight, the Blue Demons will either play the University of Oklahoma or the University of Portland tomorrow to close out their time at the PK80 Invitational.