Turnovers and poor offensive execution down the stretch hurt DePaul in loss to UConn


Alexa Sandler/The DePaulia

DePaul sophomore forward Romeo Weems stands in front of a UConn player on Monday at Wintrust Arena.

DePaul was just four minutes away from winning its first Big East game of the season and pulling off a victory over No. 25 UConn Monday night

The Blue Demons were up 53-52 with 4:27 to play in the game, with the Huskies not having their best player in James Bouknight to help carry them down the stretch.

That didn’t matter.

DePaul collapsed in the closing minutes as the team went the final 4:27 without scoring a point and committing seven turnovers in the final 5:41. The Huskies took advantage of those mistakes and finished the game on an 8-0 run to win 60-53 at Wintrust Arena.

The Blue Demons are now 1-4 and 0-4 in the Big East, which is the second consecutive season that they have started conference play by losing the first four games. 

I thought for most, if not all of the 40 minutes, that our competition level was where it needed to be against a really good team that is as solid as any team in this league,” DePaul men’s basketball head coach Dave Leitao said. “We’ve got to continue to address what is an Achilles for us right now, which is [turnovers].”

UConn came into the game receiving both good and bad news earlier in the day. The good news was that they were ranked No. 25 in the new Associated Press top-25 poll, while the bad news was that Bouknight would miss a second consecutive game with an elbow injury.

When both of these teams met for the first time this season on Dec. 30 in Storrs, Conn., DePaul had all sorts of issues stopping Bouknight and the Huskies. In an 82-61 UConn win, Bouknight poured in 20 points and grabbed four rebounds. 

But even without Bouknight to help the Huskies down the stretch, UConn still made all the big plays in the closing minutes. DePaul’s backcourt, on the other hand, committed costly mistakes in the final five minutes, with Charlie Moore and Javon Freeman-Liberty having four turnovers. 

“I’m hoping that especially at the end of the game that part of it is an anomaly,” Leitao said. “That is not typical that your guards especially will turn the ball over, especially unforced that it wasn’t a lot that was going on. It was just bad decisions, bad passes that happened.”

DePaul junior forward Darious Hall defends on Monday at Wintrust Arena. (Alexa Sandler/The DePaulia)

The Blue Demons had nine turnovers in the first half that led to 10 UConn points. But the mistakes kept increasing in the second half, and the team finished the final 20 minutes with 15 turnovers.

Even with all of the mistakes DePaul committed in the second half, they still grabbed control of the game early on in the half with an 8-0 run to take a 38-35 lead. That lead settled down the Blue Demons and gave them a chance to win heading to the final couple of minutes.

Both teams would trade leads for about 12 minutes until the Huskies grabbed control of the game and never allowed the Blue Demons to regain an advantage. 

DePaul started the game, however, just like they ended the game: Making mistakes and an inability to knock down shots. The Blue Demons only made two of their first 15 shots and were down 17-6 nine minutes into the game. 

Following a timeout towards the middle of the first half, DePaul finally found its groove on offense and began to cut into the visitor’s lead. Junior forward Darious Hall, who was making his first start of the season, was one of the catalysts behind the team’s surge, scoring seven of DePaul’s last nine points to end the half. 

Hall and senior forward Pauly Paulicap were inserted into the starting lineup on Monday instead of Ray Salnave and Nick Ongenda. 

“I think it’s good to continue to mix and match lineups whether they start, in the middle or how we finish to put people in a position to be successful,” Leitao said. “So, I think having the ability to mix and match is important to find that out, but you don’t want to have to do that or manage that in the middle of a Big East season.”

Hall was the only DePaul player in double figures against UConn, finishing the game with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Sophomore forward Romeo Weems knocked down two 3-pointers in the first half but didn’t score another point the rest of the way. 

The Blue Demons’ busy schedule continues on Wednesday with a road game against Georgetown, who only has one conference win this season.