The DePaulia

DePaul takes predictable loss to Villanova 103-85

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Marin Maric had a double-double in DePaul's first Big East win Saturday at St. John's (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

Marin Maric had a double-double in DePaul's first Big East win Saturday at St. John's (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

Marin Maric had a double-double in DePaul's first Big East win Saturday at St. John's (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

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DePaul needs to improve following loss to No. 1 Villanova heading into Big East play

The DePaul Blue Demons opened the 2017-2018 Big East season with a 103-85 loss to No. 1 ranked Villanova at Wintrust Arena. In their first taste of Big East action, the Blue demons surrender a season high 103 points with seven Villanova players scoring in double figures.

While on paper it might look like the Blue Demons got blown off the floor Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters after the game that DePaul would not go away.

Graduate Transfer Marin Maric has two double-doubles on the season. (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

“They’re a good team,” Wright said. “We didn’t let up, we just made shots and outscored them. They can score, they got a lot of different ways to beat you. We were struggling early with Maric and Strus is a legitimate big time player.”

Maric and Strus were the few bright spots for a DePaul team that struggled getting into any consistent offensive rhythm. Maric had a very efficient double double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while hitting all five of his free throw attempts. Strus stuffed the statsheet to the tune of 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists. These two will need to continue to play well if DePaul wants to win in the Big East.

Unfortunately for the Blue Demons their schedule does not get any easier after playing the No. 1 team in the nation. The Big East sent seven teams to the NCAA tournament last year and is again this year loaded with great teams; The Big East currently has four teams ranked in the AP top 25 poll.

“The problem that we face, and that everybody faces, is that this is a very difficult league top to bottom,” Leitao said. “I can’t name another league that 70 percent of their teams went to the tournament last year and no one really got significantly damaged by graduation or other things, so everybody feels like they are in the same position as they were last year if not better.”

Max Strus had a team-high 20 points in Wednesday’s loss to Villanova. (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

St. Johns and Georgetown are rebuilding programs, who, like DePaul, are looking to restore their status as perennial powerhouses in the Big East. Georgetown, coached by Big East legend Patrick Ewing, boast a 10-2 record whose only losses are two overtime defeats at the hands of Syracuse and Butler. St. Johns, coached by former star player Chris Mullin, are also 10-2 and are led by a duo of guards, Shamorie Ponds and Marcus Lovett.

“Climbing up (the Big East conference) depends as much on your competition as it does on you, but were are optimistic that we will be in a better place than we were this time last year,” Leitao said.

These two programs have shown strides in their rebuilding efforts and DePaul is looking to do the same. The Big East is known for being a physically tough conference stretching back to the 1980’s when players like Ewing, Mullin, and Villanova’s Ed Pinkney were battling each other. One area DePaul can display their physicality is rebounding on both ends of the floor. Against Villanova DePaul outrebounded Villanova 50-32 including 22 offensive rebounds.

Rebounding is a major focus of DePaul head coach Dave Leitao’s coaching philosophy.

“Defense and rebounding mean everything to me.”

While they lost the game, DePaul won the battle on the boards and need to continue their great team rebounding moving forward. This DePaul team cannot get pushed around under the basket if they want any type of success this season in conference play.

Along with their continuing rebounding efforts, DePaul needs to become a much better outside shooting team if they want to improve. The ability to make outside shots has transformed the way basketball is played not just in college, but every level of the game. Coach Leitao has recognized this trend in the game.

“The game has changed all over the globe. There is such a high premium on shooting and offense.”

Villanova is the perfect example of this trend in the game. Villanova connected on 15-31 three pointers and shot 54 percent from the field. No team in college basketball shares the ball and gets more open looks than this Villanova team.

Eli Cain has struggled at points this year, but the junior guard managed to scrape together 11 points in DePaul’s conference opener. (Konrad Markowski / The DePaulia)

Meanwhile, DePaul struggled shooting from the outside tonight going 6-23 from three and 41% from the field. DePaul needs to get this shooting effort from forward Eli Cain, who, after going 0-4 tonight from three is shooting only 29 percent from beyond the arc this season. Cain’s poor shooting could be attributed to his role change to point guard following Devin Gage’s season ending Achilles injury.

DePaul recently signed point guard Flynn Cameron from New Zealand who is eligible to play January 2nd against Georgetown. If Cameron can contribute right away, he and Justin Roberts should take over as the lead ball handlers, and Cain can slide over to his natural position on the wing and knock down threes like he has in the past.

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DePaul takes predictable loss to Villanova 103-85