DePaul powers through Northwestern to improve to 12-1

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DePaul powers through Northwestern to improve to 12-1

DePaul junior forward Jaylen Butz dunks the ball against Northwestern. Butz finished the game with 24 points.

DePaul junior forward Jaylen Butz dunks the ball against Northwestern. Butz finished the game with 24 points.

Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics

DePaul junior forward Jaylen Butz dunks the ball against Northwestern. Butz finished the game with 24 points.

Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics

Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics

DePaul junior forward Jaylen Butz dunks the ball against Northwestern. Butz finished the game with 24 points.

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Charlie Moore and Jaylen Butz combined for 49 points and Paul Reed notched his ninth double-double as DePaul took down Northwestern 83-78 to improve to 12-1 in their final game before Big East play begins.

Northwestern came in from the northern suburbs to face off against DePaul at Wintrust Arena on Saturday night in the much anticipated non-conference finale. Each team came into this game looking for something different. The Blue Demons were looking to improve to 12-1, their best mark in non-conference play since 1991. The Wildcats were seeking to get above the .500 level once again after a narrow loss to Michigan State on Wednesday.

The game opened to a hungry Wintrust Arena with another slow offensive start for the Blue Demons as they went down 8-3 after Northwestern’s Miller Kopp opened with two 3-pointers.

Although DePaul would respond before anything got ugly. Charlie Moore hit a 3-pointer of his own as well as a mid-range jumper and a lob for a Jaylen Butz dunk to make it 10-8. That lead would increase to 20-9 after a Romeo Weems jumper after stellar defense from the Blue Demons, forcing costly turnovers by the visitors. Charlie Moore hit four of his first six shots to lead the Blue Demons offense while Paul Reed had an off night early, starting the game 0-for-6 from the field.

Out of a timeout, Northwestern was able to find their rhythm offensively. Two quick 3-pointers by Northwestern freshman Boo Buie cut the lead to five in his first game starting in the absence of Anthony Gaines. His offense kickstarted a great shooting display from the Wildcats. A 9-for-10 shooting spree had the visitors in control for the final minutes of the first half to lead 38-34 at the break.

Buie excelled in the first half, pacing all scorers with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Defense on Paul Reed was stellar, as the DePaul star wasn’t able to get a comfortable look in the opening 20 minutes.

Buie along with Kopp filled in while leading scorer Pete Nance sat for ten minutes after picking up three fouls.

A few of the season-long problems plagued the Blue Demons in the first half, six turnovers and 5-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line helped swing the half in Northwestern’s favor. Only four points came outside of the starting five and only two players made more than one field goal in the first half.

Northwestern switched its defensive look a few times in the first half including a zone for a few minutes. Each Wildcat switched onto the perimeter at one point, creating a perfect storm to mess with DePaul’s offensive rhythm.

In the second half, Jalen Coleman-Lands got the first 3-pointer down for DePaul, but it was matched by a reverse layup from Buie.

Paul Reed scored his first points on a post-up to take a 41-40 lead with 17:20 remaining in the first half, he’d score again on another post up to make it 43-40.

A few minutes later, Coleman-Lands would hit a 3-pointer to take a 48-42 lead, their largest lead since the eleventh minute of the first half.

Buie wouldn’t let the Wildcats rollover, five quick points kept the game at a 52-49 scoreline. He had seven of Northwestern’s first 11 points in the half. After a few quick stops, a Kopp 3-pointer put Northwestern up 57-52 with 10:17 to play. From there, the Wildcats controlled the pace as DePaul shooting woes continued as Weems picked up foul number four and Reed number three.

Facing a six-point deficit with less than seven minutes remaining, Jaylen Butz kept up his aggression up down low. A 3-point play made it 67-64 with 5:20 remaining. Yet it was the story of the night, as Kopp rained down another three to make it 70-64. Paul Reed would knock down a three to cut the deficit back. On the ensuing possession, Reed stuffed a floater attempt by Pat Spencer.

A Charlie Moore crossover and 3-pointer cut the lead back to one, Buie went down and missed, and then Jalen Coleman-Lands made a 4-point play to take a 75-72 lead. This wasn’t the first time that Coleman-Lands came up in the clutch this season, he hit a three to tie the game against Texas Tech on Dec. 4.

“[Coleman-Lands] has been around in late stages of the game and in close games, that’s when he’s been at his best. He’s a special individual, so he has a better understanding of a lot of things.”

Those plays made the difference down the stretch for the Blue Demons. “Those three plays kind of gave them the separation they needed,” Chris Collins said.

And then, after a foul was called on the floor when a referee ignored a Northwestern timeout, Spencer missed a free throw before Moore took the ball down and lobbed it up to Butz who slammed it home. Butz had a career night, scoring 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting while notching eight rebounds. His impact on the floor was huge all around, earning him the Most Valuable Player award.

“[Butz] did a really good job in and out of the paint, but he was also active on defense,” Leitao said.

An 11-2 run made it a 79-74 lead with a minute to play for DePaul. Free throws cut it to 79-76 as Darious Hall went to the line, extending the lead to 81-76 with 16.8 seconds left. Charlie Moore went to the line at the end of the game, nailing two free throws to seal the game at 83-78.

Those key shots couldn’t have happened without the stops down the line. Even with Northwestern’s offensive prowess, DePaul was able to get the stops when needed. “Our defense kind of hung in there, it bent, but it didn’t break,” Leitao said.

A career night for Buie left him with 25 points and six assists on 10-of-16 shooting. Kopp added 21 while knocking down three 3-pointers in the loss. Northwestern falls to 5-6 on the season.

“[Buie’s] skill is obvious,” Leitao said. “There was no moment that he wasn’t ready for.”

The win improves the Blue Demons to 12-1 before they face Seton Hall at home on Dec. 30 to open Big East play. Currently, the Blue Demons are tied for the best record in the conference with Butler.