Poor offense dooms DePaul in 57-47 loss to Providence


Eric Henry/The DePaulia

DePaul junior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty goes up for a layup against Providence on Saturday at Wintrust Arena

When DePaul and Providence met for the first time this season on Dec. 27, the game was filled with points and back-and-forth action, with the Friars coming away with a 95-90 victory in double overtime.

When these two teams met on Saturday at Wintrust Arena, both sides struggled to score and, at times, had stretches of poor offensive possessions. 

But after 40 minutes of action, it was Providence who came away with a 57-47 win, completing the season sweep over the Blue Demons. 

“With the game plan that we tried to have of continuing to attack the paint, and I don’t know that we did that enough,” DePaul men’s basketball head coach Dave Leitao said. “We wanted to get into the paint more. If we didn’t have anything, to fake and get it to the line or kick out, that’s how you are going to get your rhythm shots from the perimeter. And that flow didn’t come about as many times we need it to.” 

This is only the third time Leitao’s second stint as DePaul head coach where his team failed to reach 50 points, with the other two times coming against Little Rock (44) and Butler (42). 

DePaul was without starting point guard Charlie Moore on Saturday, who was out with a left knee injury. This is the second game that Moore has missed this season, the first coming against Creighton on Jan. 30. 

Freshman guard Kobe Elvis got the start in place of Moore, and he finished the game with five points on 2-of-10 shooting. Sophomore forward Romeo Weems did not start Saturday’s game, instead coming off the bench for only the second time this season. Weems scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds.

It was an in-house decision. It wasn’t prolonged,” Leitao said on Weems coming off the bench. “It was just making an in-house decision on things that we want to make sure that we keep aligned and how we do things as part of our program”

Without their assist leader and second leading scorer, Moore, the Blue Demons struggled to generate a lot of offense against a stingy Providence defense. DePaul rarely was able to find a consistent groove and that led to many poor offensive possessions.

DePaul senior forward Pauly Paulicap has his shot blocked against Providence on Saturday at Wintrust Arena. (Eric)

The Blue Demons started out the game by attacking the paint and using their physicality to their advantage. Senior guard Ray Salnave and Elvis led the early charge with five points apiece, but the Friars would later begin to make adjustments to their interior defense. 

For the visitors, on the other hand, most of their early offense came from two players: David Duke and A.J. Reeves. The duo scored 13 of the team’s first 18 points and knocked down three 3-pointers. 

Another freshman that made an early impact in the game for the Blue Demons was David Jones, who came off the bench to score four points in a 38 second stretch. He finished the game with a team-high 10 points. 

Providence took a six-point lead with 3:45 to play in the first half, but that was the final time the Friars scored before halftime. DePaul scored the final four points to make it a 30-28 Providence lead going into the break. 

The second half wasn’t much better in terms of offense, but Providence was able to do just enough to overcome DePaul. The Blue Demons had moments where they would bring the game back within four points, only for the Friars to then score the next four points. 

After  14 minutes of action in the second half, DePaul only scored 11 points and trailed 50-39. Providence kept control of the game for the final six minutes as its defense continued to swarm DePaul’s attack. The Friars finished the game with nine blocks and six steals. 

“There are games or even in practice when the ball is flying around and looks crisp, looks sharp,” Leitao said. “But sometimes when we get into a drought situation, those things kind of get stagnated. So we have got to figure that part out both physically and emotionally of how we can create more opportunities by sharing the ball. We don’t have that one guy that can get you 30-35, so we got to do it sometimes in a multitude of ways with different guys in position to make plays. So, we got to just continue to work on it.”

DePaul junior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty took a hard foul in the second half after colliding with Providence’s Jared Bynum. Freeman-Liberty was able to walk off the court on his own power, and then returned to finish the game. 

DePaul is now scheduled to go on a three-game road trip, starting with a visit to Seton Hall on Wednesday. The Blue Demons are now 3-9 overall and 1-9 in the Big East.