Revenge-minded Blue Demons welcome Providence to Wintrust


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.

DePaul needs to stop the bleeding after dropping their third-straight contest on Wednesday.

The DePaul Blue Demons (11-9; 3-6) next opportunity to do that is today at 1:30 when they welcome the Providence College Friars (13-8; 3-5) to town as the grind of the Big East Conference schedule continues. The Friars hold a decisive 30-11 advantage in the all-time series between the two teams.

In a frustrating affair last Sunday in Rhode Island, DePaul played from behind nearly the entire second half (they tied it briefly within the first minute of the second frame), but were never able to get over the hump and take the lead. DePaul got 34 combined points on 12-for-19 from the field (63 percent) from the big man tandem of Paul Reed and Femi Olujobi, but their starting backcourt (Eli Cain, Max Strus, and Devin Gage) remarkably all went 3-for-10 from the field in an inefficient display of scoring. DePaul didn’t score from the field the last two minutes of the game and neither Olujobi nor Reed got a shot off the last five minutes of the game. Falling 70-67, it felt like another winnable game the Blue Demons let slip away.

For the Friars, junior guard Alpha Diallo leads the team in points (17.2 points per game), rebounds (8.1 rebounds per game), assists (3.3 assists per game), and steals (1.9 steals per game). At 6-foot-7-inches, he has fantastic size for his position making him a difficult cover. He scored 20 points on an inefficient 3-for-14 from the field in Providence’s win against DePaul on Sunday. He feasted at the line, hitting all 14 of his free-throw attempts.

Providence has struggled to put the ball in the basket at times this season. They are ninth in the Big East in points per game (73.0) and tenth in field goal percentage (43.0 percent). They have shot the ball below 40 percent from the field on six occasions this season yet are 3-3 in those games. The scoring struggles also extend to the free-throw stripe where the Friars shoot it at a 67.7 percent clip which is second worst in the conference.

After surrendering 14 offensive rebounds to Villanova on Wednesday, DePaul will need to shore up this facet of their game against an outstanding offensive rebounding team in Providence. The Friars lead the Big East in both offensive rebounds per game (just ahead of DePaul) and offensive rebounding percentage. The 12.24 offensive boards they average per game is the 46th best mark in the country.

DePaul will induct two of its former men’s basketball players into its Hall of Fame in a ceremony at McGrath-Phillips Arena tonight. Andre Brown was the second-leading scorer on the last DePaul Blue Demon team to qualify for the NCAA tournament (2004) and finished his time at DePaul with 855 rebounds which is the 18th-highest total for a career in Conference USA history. Brown played 75 NBA games. Brown’s contemporary Lance Williams also will be inducted. He was part of DePaul teams that qualified for the NCAA tournament (1999) and the National Invitational tournament (2000) and he went on to play professional basketball overseas and semi-professional basketball in the states from 2002-2016. Both men, along with the rest of the DePaul Blue Demon Hall of Fame class of 2019, will be introduced at halftime of the game against Providence.

For the present day Blue Demon basketball team, every game carries extra weight. Just 1.5 games separate eight teams in the conference standings with Villanova (8-0) and Marquette (8-1) duking it out on top in a two-team race for the conference title.