Incarnate Word next up on Blue Demon’s nonconference slate

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Incarnate Word next up on Blue Demon’s nonconference slate

The Blue Demons improve to 8-2 on the season with a win against Incarnate Word tonight. Richard Bodee I The DePaulia

The Blue Demons improve to 8-2 on the season with a win against Incarnate Word tonight. Richard Bodee I The DePaulia

The Blue Demons improve to 8-2 on the season with a win against Incarnate Word tonight. Richard Bodee I The DePaulia

The Blue Demons improve to 8-2 on the season with a win against Incarnate Word tonight. Richard Bodee I The DePaulia

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An appetizer before the main course.

Tonight, the DePaul Blue Demon men’s basketball team (7-2) battles the Incarnate Word Cardinals (5-6) at 7:30 p.m. at Wintrust Arena before they wrap up the nonconference portion of their schedule Saturday against Boston College out of the ACC.

The Cardinals made the jump from Division II to Division I in 2013 and since moving up to the highest level they have recorded three seasons with a record above .500 with a CollegeInsider.com tournament appearance in 2015. First-year head coach Carson Cunningham leads the Cardinals after a successful tenure at NAIA-affiliated Carroll College in Helena, Mont. (107-52 in five seasons with Carroll College).

At Incarnate Word, Cunningham has inherited one of the youngest teams in the country. The Cardinal’s roster averages just 0.6 years of collegiate experience. Eight of their nine leading scorers this season are freshman or sophomores and overall they have just three upperclassmen on their roster. Also interesting: every single player on their roster has started at least one game and coach Cunningham has used seven different starting lineups in 12 games this season.

The Cardinals begin the season 5-7 and have generally beaten the teams they were supposed to beat and lost to the teams they were supposed to lose to. Four of their five wins have come against non-Division I competition. They have 50 and 41 point losses against Texas Tech and LSU respectively this season and lost to University of Illinois at Chicago 63-57 on Monday.

The Cardinals get 26 of the 64 points they have averaged per game this season from two players from Chicago. Christian Peevy attended Mount Carmel High School during his prep days and contributes 14 points per game while his teammate Morgan Taylor went to Marist High School and adds 12.3 points per game. The good news from the Blue Demons perspective is that the Cardinals have just two players who stroke it at a higher than 30 percent clip from 3-point land and shoot the ball from deep at just a 25.3 percent clip as a team which is 349th in the country.

If DePaul secures the victory tonight against Incarnate Word they would improve to 8-2 for the first time since the 2002-2003 Blue Demon team finished 16-13 and qualified for the National Invitational Tournament. They may need to do it without sharpshooting guard Jalen Coleman-Lands who posted a picture of himself on Instagram wearing a bandage/cast on his right hand. Coleman-Lands is the fifth-leading scorer on the team this season and although he hasn’t hit his groove with his 3-point shot just yet, he’s found other ways to contribute offensively.

FS2 will broadcast the game tonight with Brandon Gaudin (play-by-play) and Stephen Howard (analyst) on the call.