Poor shooting dooms DePaul in loss to Friars


Shane Rene | The DePaulia

Sophomore forward Paul Reed and senior forward Femi Olujobi look on during DePaul’s loss to Butler on Jan. 16 at Wintrust Arena.

Despite only leading for 37 seconds, DePaul (11-8; 3-5 Big East) suffered yet another close loss, 70-67, Sunday afternoon as Providence (13-7; 3-4 Big East) held off the Blue Demons who at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. DePaul fell to 1-2 on an all-important three-game road trip to Seton Hall, Marquette and Providence.

It was an early tip-off in Providence, Rhode Island, both teams started slow in the first half where scoring was a premium for both sides. After DePaul hit two of its first four shots from the field, the Blue Demons couldn’t buy a basket for the next six minutes as they went 1-10 from the field and didn’t make a single 3-pointer. Providence also struggled early, but received valuable production from their two best players Alpha Diallo and A.J. Reeves — the duo combined to score 18 of the team’s first 26 points.

“[Providence] were tough-minded, tough physically. They rebounded the heck out of the ball,” DePaul head coach Dave Leitao said. “They took a lot of momentum out of us.”

The first half, also, saw both teams turn the ball over 10 times that led to 15 points DePaul and 14 points for Providence.

As the half progressed, the Blue Demons continued to struggle on both ends of the court as they struggled to find any sort of rhythm offensively. On the other end, Providence kept building momentum in the half and opened up a 13-point lead at one point, 30-17.

Once again, the Blue Demons were led by their three big men, senior forward Femi Olujobi, as well as sophomore forwards Jaylen Butz and Paul Reed, who accounted for 19 of the team’s 27 points in the first half. Reed, in particular, carried DePaul early on with his 11 points in the first 12 minutes on 5-7 shooting. During that span, the rest of the team only scored four points.

When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, the Blue Demons only scored 27 points and were 10-27 from the field and 1-8 from the 3-point line and looked like a team who needed 15 minutes to figure out their issues on offense.

For the second straight game, DePaul came out of the break ready to go, leaning on Olujobi again who quickly scored six straight points to tie the game at 33.

Besides those first couple of minutes in the second half, DePaul were never able to grab a lead of their own aside from jumping out to 4-2 lead in the opening minutes.

The Friars did a good job defending both senior guards Eli Cain and Max Strus throughout the game, limiting them to a combined 16 points while the two went 6-20 from the field and 1-11 from the 3-point line. Strus was able to have an impact late in the game with six of his 10 points coming in the final 2:54 of the game. He got fouled with 1:41 left in the game that sent Strus to the charity stripe for three free-throws, where he knocked down all of them to cut the Friars lead to three, 66-63. After the game Leitao credited the Friars for how they started the game and their ability to close out the game.

“They were ready and they came out three points ahead,” Leitao said.

Late game execution once again cost DePaul late in the game as they were held without a field goal for the final 2:54, while the Friars hit five of their last seven shots.  Combining that with Reed and Olujobi, who combined to finish with 34 points and 14 rebounds, the two were held without a shot for the final 5:14 of the game while DePaul suffered their second straight loss.

“At the end of the day winning is winning and that’s how you’re judged,” Providence head coach Ed Cooley said. “We’re still learning and growing, but I’m happy to come away with a win.”

DePaul will resume conference play against Villanova on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena. In their first meeting of the season, the Wildcats came back from a 14-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Blue Demons, 73-68. 

After three straight games on the road, DePaul is back at Wintrust Arena for three of it’s next four games, including hosting the Friars next Saturday afternoon.