Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia
MILWAUKEE — The DePaul men’s basketball team was in desperation mode after three straight losses that put them in the basement of the Big East at 1-7. A trip to rival Marquette marked the midway point of the conference season. After getting out to a quick 40-34 halftime lead at the sold-out Fiserv Forum, Marquette went on a 12-5 run late in the second half that helped seal the game at 76-72.
The first half began on a good footing for the Blue Demons as a couple looks from guard Charlie Moore got things rolling to a 15-8 start. Moore was all over the court with contributions off the bench from sophomore forward Darious Hall.
Marquette star Markus Howard came into the game averaging a league-high 27 points a game. Howard wore a mask after getting hurt on Wednesday’s double-overtime win at Xavier. Howard hit five of his first eight shots from deep to pull Marquette up through the first half. He finished the half with 21 points on 13 shots.
After getting into foul trouble, junior forward Paul Reed only played 12 minutes in the first half. Yet DePaul managed in his absence with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists from Moore pacing a 40-34 at the break.
Moore’s rests usually give way for backup guard Devin Gage to make noise, but Gage will be sidelined the rest of the season with a right-hand injury. Freshman Oscar Lopez Jr played the backup role for DePaul.
In the second half, Marquette took a 7-0 run that had the Fiserv rocking and the lead cut to just 49-48 in favor of DePaul. The Blue Demons went on a 3-minute scoring drought that felt like a mirror image of the St. John’s loss on Jan. 25 where the Blue Demons lead at halftime before going on a similar streak.
Marquette cut the game to 50-50 after a 9-1 run with 13:46 left in the first half, getting the Fiserv on its feet.
Yet DePaul battled back to garner a 61-54 lead with 8:54 remaining after Jaylen Butz had nine to start up the second half. At that point in the game, Butz had three fouls, freshman Romeo Weems had three and Reed had three as well.
Howard woke up and hit a floater that cut the DePaul lead back to just three points with six minutes remaining. Both teams were in the bonus with 5:15 remaining.
“We started to loosen up, they went to a zone [and] we didn’t execute the way we wanted to,” head coach Dave Leitao said.
Marquette and DePaul went on a three-minute streak with no field goals as multiple fouls called on DePaul handed Marquette opportunities to take the lead.
Paul Reed would hit a mid-range jumper to take a 68-66 lead with 3:10 remaining. Howard tied the game at 68 on the next possession after a foul was gifted.
A few possessions later and Markus Howard would knock down a shot to take a 72-70 lead. On an ensuing Marquette possession, a shot clock violation wasn’t called and the ball was given back to Marquette with 37.1 seconds left in the game.
DePaul would get the ball back and call a timeout with 28.5 seconds remaining down 72-70. The possession ended with a Paul Reed trip to the free-throw line. Reed missed the first shot and made the second. Howard would go to the line and knock down two free throws to extend the lead to 74-71. Howard would end the game with 31 points.
It’s another game in the 1-8 start to the Big East season where DePaul was in it until they weren’t. “Execution is holistic,” Leitao said. “The shot goes up, that’s execution, you have to box out properly, rotate properly, there’s defensive execution. I think late in the shot clock we put them at the line too much by fouling when we didn’t need to.”
DePaul is now just 13-9 overall and 1-8 in Big East play. The loss today marks their fourth straight loss as well.
“Every game brings a different challenge, you just have to figure it out, you know,” Moore said.
Facing the rest of this conference is no short problem. “You know, just being on the same page,” Moore said. “I feel like we had some good shots today that we just didn’t make. We just have to keep executing and stick to our gameplan was the main thing, everything else should work out itself.”
The game ended with Marquette being given 33 free throws to DePaul’s 21. DePaul will face Xavier on Tuesday at Wintrust Arena.