Men’s basketball second half surge soars team to 2-0 start


Ryan Gilroy / The DePaulia

Sophomore guard Darious Hall celebrates a ferocious dunk in the second half against U Chicago on Tuesday night at Wintrust Arena.

DePaul’s men’s basketball team faced off in a cross-city matchup against the University of Chicago on Tuesday night. It was the second night of a back to back that opened the 2019-20 season for the Blue Demons, and after a slow start, the team lit on fire off the back of junior Charlie Moore and the offensive attack. DePaul and interim head coach Tim Anderson won 84-55 at Wintrust Arena.

Fresh off a 72-54 victory over Alcorn State in their opener, the Blue Demons looked sluggish out of the gate, as they were knotted at 6-6 after a few minutes of play. The offense picked up though, largely due to the play of Jaylen Butz and Moore, who combined for 25 points in the first half. 

Yet U Chicago did not back down from the challenge. The Maroons were wonderful from beyond the arc, making eight threes in the first half to keep DePaul at a five-point lead of 36-31 with just a few minutes left, until Moore went to work, putting the team up 46-31 at the break. 

But the game was too close for comfort at one point when DePaul was only up 28-26. 

“We weren’t locked in as a team,” sophomore guard Darious Hall said. “But, at the same time, we just weren’t focused closing out with a high hand. It was just miscommunication on parts like that.”

The first half got a little sloppy for the Blue Demons, who committed eight turnovers while giving up wide-open looks from beyond the arc. But the team prevailed, using their size and speed gap over the Division III Maroon squad to their advantage. 

The second half opened up better than the first. DePaul hadn’t lost a step after the break, running out to a 57-38 lead. They kept the pressure on with buckets from Butz, who ended the night with 14 points, as well as freshman guard Markese Jacobs who had 16 points on 5 of 9 shooting. They steamrolled to a very comfortable 74-40 lead with just under 10 minutes to play. 

Pressure came and didn’t go anywhere as the Blue Demons sharpened up their defense behind the arc, containing U Chicago’s shooters to only one three-pointer in the first 15 minutes of the second half. 

The Blue Demons closed out the game 84-55 and have jumped out to a 2-0 start on their much anticipated 2019-20 season. 

Despite the second half positives, the team’s play raises some worrisome questions on the 3 point defense. “There is no way, structurally, that we can play that bad defensively and give up open shot after open shot,” Anderson said.

One of the stories of the night was the absence of junior point guard Devin Gage. Gage was taken out of Tuesday’s contest against Alcorn State for what seemed like just poor performance, but Anderson said that the reason Gage didn’t suit up tonight was due to a hamstring injury.

“Devin had a hamstring injury,” Anderson said. “So we decided to sit him out, he’s been going back and forth with it.”

The back to back to start the season is unconventional, to say the least. Despite easier opponents, going through a less than a 24-hour turnaround between games takes a toll on a team. DePaul felt as if they were prepared for the challenge though. 

“You can’t take days off, obviously being a basketball player, we work since the summertime and found out that you rarely get days off anyways,” junior forward Jaylen Butz said about the start of the season. “But just staying locked in, mentally focused and trying to watch as much film as possible [helps].”

The Blue Demons host Farleigh-Dickinson on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Wintrust Arena before heading to face Iowa University in their first road match on Monday.