DePaul loses 74-69 against Buffalo, dropping Blue Demons to 9-1 on season

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DePaul loses 74-69 against Buffalo, dropping Blue Demons to 9-1 on season

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao walks off the floor after the first half against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons lost the game 74-69.

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao walks off the floor after the first half against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons lost the game 74-69.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao walks off the floor after the first half against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons lost the game 74-69.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao walks off the floor after the first half against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena. The Blue Demons lost the game 74-69.

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After defeating Texas Tech 65-60 in overtime on Wednesday, DePaul was the talk of college basketball. The dream of becoming ranked was finally becoming a reality in Lincoln Park. 

And then Buffalo waltzed into Wintrust Arena and crashed DePaul’s party. The Bulls handed the Blue Demons their first loss of the season, winning 74-69 and dropping DePaul to 9-1. 

This was the classic trap game in sports. DePaul came into the game with a boatload of confidence, sitting at 9-0 and on the verge of being ranked for the first time since 2000. While Buffalo came into the game as a nine-point underdog with a point to prove

“Give credit to Buffalo,” head coach Dave Leitao said. “I thought they played, and probably didn’t have their best game, but they played well enough. They were on point. The mistakes that we made, they made us pay for them. They were good enough when we tried to come back at them.”

The Blue Demons got off to a decent start, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and forcing the Bulls to miss their first six shots of the game. But the visitors didn’t let a poor start hinder them from getting back into the game. 

The Bulls began by imposing their will on the defensive end. By forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, they were able to stay within striking distance. 

For most of the first half, DePaul was able to do enough defensively to keep a small lead. But their offense, once again, was giving them no help. The Blue Demons, who average just over 14 turnovers per game, coughed up the ball 15 times in the first half, leading to 17 points for Buffalo. 

“If you turn the ball over 15 times in a half, you don’t deserve to win,” Leitao said. “You don’t deserve to be in a game. That’s that’s just general sloppiness. I can’t recall many possessions that we used the size of the floor, do things that don’t lend itself to turnovers. I thought we settled today. But 15 turnovers is a direct result of, I don’t know that we were as focused as we needed to be.”

Despite poor shooting from the field and unable to hold onto the ball, DePaul still had a 30-29 lead with two minutes to play in the first half. But that would be the last time the Blue Demons held a lead in the game. Buffalo knocked down two straight 3-pointers to close the first half, taking a 37-30 lead into the break. 

DePaul received a balanced scoring effort in the first half, with six players getting on the score sheet. 

After closing out the first half in disappointing fashion, the Blue Demons began the second half in even worse fashion. The Bulls came out with more energy and intensity, which led them on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 47-30. 

Buffalo was able to build their lead up to 19 points before the Blue Demons had any sort of response. DePaul had mini runs throughout the second half that would get them within single digits, but the Bulls would always respond with a couple of shots to prevent any large Blue Demon comeback. 

“What went wrong was what happened in the first half,” senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands said. “Mentally, not being into it and making turnovers, having 15 turnovers and just kind of being lackadaisical. That’s something we can’t do.”

Free-throw shooting was once again problem for DePaul, going only 7-of-18 from the charity stripe while the visitors went 12-of-16 from the free-throw line. Junior guard Charlie Moore, who only scored six points against Texas Tech, had another tough shooting night, scoring eight points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field. Moore also had eight turnovers and fouled out of the game with two minutes left to play.

DePaul had one big push towards the end of the game when Jalen Coleman-Lands scored seven straight points to keep the Blue Demons in striking distance. But DePaul failed to hit a couple of 3-pointers in that stretch that would have cut the lead to a one possession game. 

Junior guard Paul Reed had only final steal and layup near the end of the game to cut the lead to 72-69, but the Bulls hit a pair of free-throws to seal the victory. Reed finished the game with 15 points, 18 rebounds and five blocks. 

DePaul will get nearly a week off before their next game on Saturday against UIC. The Blue Demons are going to focus on improving the things that hurt them against Buffalo: free-throw shooting and turnovers. 

“Biggest thing is make sure everybody stays on the boat,” Coleman-Lands said. “Right now we are going to immediately look at film, learn from our mistakes and move on to the next game. At this point we have to maturity on our team, at this point is just kind of coming together and making sure that everybody’s on the same core. And go into the next game with the mindset from beginning to end that can put ourselves in a situation again.”