Takeaways from DePaul’s win against Alabama A&M Monday night


Josh Leff

Men's basketball coach Dave Leitao is in the third season of his second stint at DePaul. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

Don’t look now, but the DePaul Blue Demons are riding a wave of momentum that comes with a five-game winning streak and find themselves at 6-4 going into a big matchup against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.

Even with this record the Blue Demons reside in the cellar of the Big East Conference, although the standings are deceptive because most of the other teams in the conference didn’t take it upon themselves to play a tough non-conference schedule like the Blue Demons did. Snipped from BigEast.com.

The Blue Demons most recent victory was a commanding 83-59 win against an overmatched Alabama A&M team on Monday night. What did we learn about the Blue Demons in this victory?

Point Cain

In the wake of news that starting point guard Devin Gage would miss the remainder of the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon in his right foot, it looked like the Blue Demons would have an issue at the point guard position.

But junior shooting guard Eli Cain wasn’t having any of that talk, seamlessly transitioning into the Blue Demons point guard spot and leading his team to two wins in his first two games in this new role.

Cain followed up a career-high eights assists in a win against University of Illinois at Chicago on Saturday by matching that number yesterday against Alabama A&M. DePaul Blue Demon head coach Dave Leitao has trusted him with bringing the ball up the floor and getting DePaul into their offense.

Coincidentally (or maybe not so much), the Blue Demons six wins this season have coincided with their six highest team assists totals, while their four losses have coincided with their four lowest team assist totals. Snipped from Sports-Reference.com.

The 24 team assists the Blue Demons recorded against Alabama A&M is the most the program has posted in a single game since Dec. 10, 2011 when DePaul dished out 25 assists in a 102-95 win against Chicago State. Nonetheless, Leitao insists that there’s room for improvement in this department.

“What I’m most pleased about is we aren’t turning it over as much (14 turnovers against Alabama A&M), so as we change sides of the floor we share the basketball and it creates opening,” Leitao said. “I think the next stage for us is to get in the paint more. Sometimes we’ll have a possession where we can’t get it in there but we want to have multiple possessions where the ball goes inside multiple times. First drive, second drive, third drive. Inside, out passes to drives. Change sides of the floor to drives. I think that opens up your 3-point shooters and draws second defenders to you and then opens up your offense even more.

Freshman Justin Roberts contributed four assists from the point guard spot on Monday night after a forgettable performance against UIC on Saturday.

First Time For Everything

Sophomore guard Austin Grandstaff, freshman big man Paul Reed, and senior big man Joe Hanel each recorded their first points of the 2017-2018 season in the win against Alabama A&M.

The crowd and bench reaction was especially vibrant for Hanel’s score.

 Contributions from Reed

In one game, Reed eclipsed his season highs in minutes (13), points (nine), and rebounds (six).

However, the talented freshman hasn’t established himself in the regular rotation just yet. His game is unrefined and he will only get better as he gets stronger and as he continues to work on the jump shot that he was diligently practicing before the game.

But against Alabama A&M he showed flashes of how good he could become. This is your 6-foot-9-inch power forward attacking the basket all the way out from the 3-point line and gracefully finishing through traffic at the basket.

Defensively is where Reed has made the biggest impact thus far this season. He had one block and one steal last night, and his length and instincts for when and where a shot is going up gives him the groundwork profile of a lethal rim protector.

What’s up with Marin Maric?

If Leitao knows the answer, he’s keeping it sealed from the media.

“I’m not sure yet, we’ll see how he goes through the process tomorrow and this week leading up to Saturday,” Leitao said after the game yesterday. “I don’t have an answer yet. I’ll leave that in the trainers and doctors hands.”

Marin Maric left the game against UIC after banging knees with another player in the first half. The 6-foot-10-inch graduate center has averaged 11.6 points and 5.2 rebounds this season and if he can’t play on Saturday that would be a huge blow for DePaul’s chances against a talented Northwestern squad.