DePaul forwards Femi Olujobi, Paul Reed take advantage of opportunity



Senior forward Femi Olujobi locks in on a jumper during the Blue Demons 65-50 win against Florida A&M Monday night at Wintrust Arena. Richard Bodee I The DePaulia

Trailing by 13 at No. 12/11 Marquette on Wednesday night, DePaul opened the second half on an 8-0 run to slice from Marquette’s lead from 13 to ve just over two minutes into the second half.

Seven of those points came courtesy of senior forward Femi Olujobi and sophomore Paul Reed, who have continued to step forward for DePaul in conference play. Olujobi and Reed rebounded from tough first halves to combine for 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Blue Demons tried to mount a comeback.

“I thought Paul hung in there, Femi didn’t have his typical offensive game,” Leitao said. “I thought he was half a step behind in his aggression when he caught it to go right at it. He was kind of looking around to see if there was help or doubles or anything and they mixed it up a little bit.”

While both players had their challenges at times on Wednesday, their importance to the offense was again on display as the Golden Eagles keyed in on Blue Demon senior guards Max Strus and Eli Cain, who were also tasked with slowing down Marquette’s leading scorers Markus Howard and Sam Hauser. Strus and Cain combined for just 18 points on 6-of-22 shooting from the eld, while Olujobi and Reed stepped forward offensively contributing 33 points and 18 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass.

“That’s what we were looking for in the second half is just for guys to come out and be aggressive,” Strus said of Olujobi and Reed. “Those big guys did that and we need other guys to follow – myself included.”

Both Reed and Olujobi have been among the best big men in conference play as they’ve combines to average 32.6 points and 15.3 rebounds. Both players have been named to the Big East Honor Roll during conference play as well.

While the rise of Reed and Olujobi has caught the eye of many coaches and observers in the conference, Olujobi says they’ve always been con dent and tried to respond when called upon.

“We’ve always been con dent, I don’t feel like there was a spike in con dence or anything,” Olujobi said. “We’re just trying to keep playing how we play within the team. It’s nothing new, just certain nights we need to step up, and we’ve been doing so when we’re asked.”

That has taken some pressure off Cain and Strus who have been the focus of virtually every team’s defensive gameplans. The two have still been producing combining for 25 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Coming into the season, Leitao talked about the importance of developing balance both inside and outside and the opportunities that would be created for other players if every player shared the ball on a consistent basis.

“I think what’s gone on is everybody guards Max Strus a certain way and Eli for a long time has done what he has done,” Leitao said on the Big East teleconference. “But part of that balance has given us the opportunity to have other guys, in this case Femi [Olujobi] and Paul [Reed] and Jaylen Butz the opportunity to play one- on-one because of the way those guys on the perimeter are guarded.”

A lot of this has happened without DePaul junior guard Jalen Coleman- Lands, who has missed the past 10 games with a broken left hand. When he returns

Leitao said he hopes that will provide even more openings for the offense. “When Jalen Coleman-Lands went down it took away one specific offensive option that continued to stretch the floor,” Leitao said. “So when he comes back we hope that we can get back to that balanced scoring opportunities for all the guys that are on the floor and continue to look like how I perceived it to be in the beginning of the season.”

When Olujobi, Reed and Butz, who is returning from a calf injury of his own that he suffered in the Blue Demons win over Seton Hall on Jan. 6, have benefitted from the attention Strus and Cain have drawn, Olujobi said that can work both ways if the three big men are aggressive in the post.

“When we do assert ourselves and we get the ball to the post they get as close to a wide-open shot as you can get because we just attract so much attention within the paint,” Olujobi said. “We have people doubling down, we have people digging, stuff like that so they get more than enough space to get their shots off, so ultimately it just makes the game easier for them and when they start hitting shots it also makes the game easier for us because then we get one-on-one coverage.”

That improved balance and pressure taken off of Strus and Cain has helped DePaul average nearly five more points per game than last season during conference play, which has so far led to more wins in a clustered Big East filled with close games.