Blue Demon basketball looks to right ship against Providence


The Blue Demons have added transfer student Carte'Are Gordon to its roster. (Konrad Markowski/The DePaulia)

The DePaul Blue Demons roll into Rhode Island looking to end a forgettable week on a high note.

It started when longtime DePaul recruiting target Tyger Campbell chose UCLA over the Blue Demons on Tuesday, continued with severe fan backlash on Twitter, and culminated with a disheartening 76-75 loss at home against Creighton on Wednesday that was a play or two away from ending in a Blue Demon victory.

Next on the docket for the Blue Demons (9-14; 2-9) is a 3 p.m. date with the Providence Friars (16-8; 7-4) at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The Friars are 4-1 at home in Big East Conference play this season (11-2 overall), while both of the Blue Demons conference wins came on the road. The game will air on Fox Sports Network and WSCR 670 AM.

In a Jan. 12 matchup between Providence and DePaul, a 22-0 run early in the second half allowed the Friars to escape Wintrust Arena with a 71-64 victory. Providence doubled Max Strus throughout the game, holding DePaul’s star to eight points on 3-for-13 from the field as 15 points from center Marin Maric and eight points off the bench from Jaylen Butz weren’t enough to prevent the collapse in the second half. The Friars long, athletic guard Jalen Lindsey poured in 18 points (tied for a season high), and noticeably disrupted Strus with his defense.

That was the 39th all-time meeting between the two teams. The Blue Demons hope that in the 40th meeting they can flip the narrative, and cut into the 29-10 advantage that Providence has in the all-time series. After an emotional road victory against Georgetown on Jan. 24, the Blue Demons have dropped three straight games and find themselves in second to last place in the Big East.

With Strus slumping during the losing streak (nine points per game on 28.6  percent from the field), Maric has picked up the slack to the tune of 16 points per game on 54.1 percent from the field. Freshman Paul Reed has been a revelation over the past few weeks. He earned more minutes with Butz out for an extended amount of time with an illness, and has averaged 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 18 minutes of playing time in the last six games. Reed is second on the team in blocks per 40 minutes (1.6) and is also athletic enough to defend guards on the perimeter.

Meanwhile, the Friars have won six of their last eight games and come off nail-biting victories against Marquette on Feb. 3 (77-75) and Georgetown on Feb. 6 (73-69). The Friars are 9-4 in games decided by less than ten points this season.

Offensively, the Friars spread the scoring around with four of their five starters averaging in double digits. In the first meeting between the two teams, the Friars held the Blue Demons to 38.8 percent from the field and scoreless for eight minutes in the second half which led to the aforementioned 22-0 run.

With seven games remaining on the schedule, the Blue Demons need one more win to exceed their win total and conference win total from a season ago. But with matchups against top five ranked Xavier and Villanova, teams that have already blew them out like Marquette and Seton Hall, dangerous Creighton and Providence teams, and then a rejuvenated St. John’s team coming up, it’s difficult to peruse the schedule and point out an obvious win.