The DePaulia

Northwestern exposes flaws, strengths as conference play approaches

Dave+Leitao+and+Providence+head+coach+Ed+Cooley+will+wear+microphones+in+the+FS1+all+access+game.+%0A%28Konrad+Markowski%2FThe+DePaulia%29
Dave Leitao and Providence head coach Ed Cooley will wear microphones in the FS1 all access game. 
(Konrad Markowski/The DePaulia)

Dave Leitao and Providence head coach Ed Cooley will wear microphones in the FS1 all access game. (Konrad Markowski/The DePaulia)

Dave Leitao and Providence head coach Ed Cooley will wear microphones in the FS1 all access game. (Konrad Markowski/The DePaulia)

Pat Feil, Contributing Sportswriter

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Sometimes it’s the little things that can decide the outcome of a basketball game. For the DePaul Blue Demons (6-5), that little thing was free throw shooting.

Playing against a veteran Northwestern team (8-4) the Blue demons shot a season-worst 37.5 percent from the charity stripe, making just nine-of-24 attempts.

After the game, DePaul head coach Dave Leitao seemed to dismiss his team’s troubles at the free throw line as the reason of the loss.

“We have been very good up until today with our free throws(…) It doesn’t mean we would’ve won the game if we shot 75 percent,” Leitao said. “You can look at the film and judge it many different ways(…) They don’t tell the whole story of the game.”

Looking forward, Blue Demon fans should expect DePaul to shoot better at the free throw line. DePaul, as a team this year, is making 76.5 percent of their free throws. While the free throw shooting doesn’t tell the whole story about the game’s outcome, it’s hard to deny that DePaul left some points off the board by not converting at the free throw line in a game they let slip away.

A bright spot for the Blue Demons was the team’s defensive effort throughout the game. DePaul in the first half forced 13 Northwestern turnovers and held star guard Bryant McIntosh to only four points on two-of-17 shooting.

DePaul has defended well all season, but the Blue Demons rank last in three-pointers allowed in the Big East with 104.
(Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

Northwestern head coach Chris Collins had high praise for DePaul’s defensive ability and defensive potential.

“They have length, they have quickness, they have size at the basket,” Collins said. “I thought their coverages were really good, they did a great job with McIntosh in the pick and rolls. They made life miserable on him, which is a big part and forced us to go to other things.”

DePaul’s defensive effort was consistent and culminated on Northwestern’s final possession where DePaul forced a shot clock violation against the Wildcats after a blocked shot from DePaul center Peter Ryckbosh set up DePaul’s final possession to either tie or win the game.

One area defensively that the Blue Demons will need to address entering conference play is defending the three pointer. So far, this season, DePaul has allowed a Big East high 104 three pointers made through 11 games being made at a 37.8 percent rate. This leaves them second to last in the Big East defending the three pointer.

The offensive performance put on by Max Strus resulted in a season high 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting, including six-of-12 from beyond the arc.  Eligible to play this season after transferring from Division II Lewis University, the junior has shattered doubts over his readiness to play Division I basketball.

“I have a chip on my shoulder every day,” Strus said. “I feel I belong at this level — I worked really hard to get here.”

Without Strus, this game would not have been close as it was. Strus was the only Blue Demon to convert more than three field goals and it’s safe to say DePaul’s leading scorer has found his place at the DI level and should continue his strong play moving forward.

Even though DePaul came up short yet again against a seasoned Northwestern team, DePaul’s strong efforts against power conference teams this season including Illinois, Michigan St, and Oregon, gives fans hope for a better future. DePaul will need to continue playing strong defense, get more offensive contributions from players not named Max Strus and clean up the little things if they want to turn close losses into wins and be competitive during Big East conference play.

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Northwestern exposes flaws, strengths as conference play approaches