Blue Demons out for revenge against Butler

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball  game against Villanova, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells to his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova, Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

If the DePaul Blue Demons (9-12; 2-7 Big East) want to earn their third Big East road win of the season when they travel to Indianapolis to square off with the Butler Bulldogs (16-7; 6-4 Big East) this weekend, they will need to get off to a better start.

In the Blue Demons last three losses, they’ve fallen behind by an average of 19 points in the first half but outscored opponents by an average of 3.6 points in the second halves of those same three games.

Blue Demon head coach Dave Leitao knows that this trend can’t continue if he expects his team to roll into Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday at 11 a.m. and come away with a victory against a dangerous Butler team.

“If you look at it structurally, how well are you running your possessions offensively and to what percentage and what things are you doing defensively to take away what the other team is trying do,” Leitao said when asked about the season-long first half struggles after the Blue Demons loss against Seton Hall last Sunday. “If you look at those numbers, when we have games like this (with bad first halves) they aren’t very high.”

This is the 16th all-time meeting between the two teams, with the Bulldogs holding a 9-6 advantage. Butler has triumphed over DePaul eight times in a row, with the Blue Demons last win coming Jan. 9, 2014. Six of those eight wins have also come by double digits. It wasn’t an afternoon to remember for the Blue Demons the last time the two teams played.

Buoyed by a 22-point lead at halftime, forward Kelan Martin (24 points on 7-for-15 from the field) and guard Kamar Baldwin (18 points on 5-for-6 from the field) were too much for the Blue Demons to overcome as the Bulldogs slobbered all over DePaul en route to a 79-67 victory on Jan. 20 at Wintrust Arena. Martin is now fifth in the conference in scoring with 19.5 points per game.

In that game, the Bulldogs shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point land, as they got whatever they wanted offensively particularly in the first half.

The Bulldogs come into the matchup on Saturday red hot. They have won three straight games with wins against DePaul, St. John’s, and Marquette over the last twelve days. The Bulldogs have feasted on the bottom tier of the conference this season, with five of their six conference wins coming against the bottom four teams in the standings (DePaul, St. John’s, Marquette, and Georgetown). The outlier to this trend was a Dec. 30 win against No. 1 Villanova; however, Butler is otherwise 0-4 against ranked teams.

The Bulldogs continue to boast one of the more efficient offenses in the NCAA. They are 43rd in the country in points per possession (1.096), and check in at third in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage which is bad news for a Blue Demon squad that has perpetually struggled defending deep shooting all season.

The Bulldogs are less menacing on the defensive end (86th in the country in opponent points per possession); however, in the first matchup between the two teams the Bulldogs held the Blue Demons to 35 percent from the field. In the last five games (1-4 in that stretch), the Blue Demons have shot 39.1 percent from the field and if you take away the win mixed in there (Jan. 24 against Georgetown) then the shooting percentage in those four losses drops to 36.9 percent.

In the last meeting between the two teams, junior guard Max Strus had a 27-point outburst on 8-for-17 from the field but didn’t get a ton of help from his teammates who combined for 40 points on 13-for-43 from the field (30 percent). Finding consistent supplemental scoring to Strus has been a struggle for the Blue Demons all season as teams have been able to key in on him and dare others to beat them.

This game against Butler will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and can be heard on the radio on WSCR 670 AM.