DePaul’s schedule is going to get much tougher very soon, starting with a visit from local rival Loyola Chicago on Saturday. In the meantime, however, all the Blue Demons can do is take care of their business — and they have done exactly that in their first six games of the season.
DePaul stayed unbeaten after defeating Eastern Michigan 101-63 to close out the three-game Blue Demon Classic.
The Blue Demons put in their best performance of the season on Sunday, shooting 58 percent (40-69) from the field and 40.9 percent (9-22) from the 3-point line. DePaul had a clear size advantage over Eastern Michigan, making that a point of emphasis for the Blue Demons. Led by junior forward Nick Ongenda, DePaul scored 54 points in the paint compared to the visitors’ only 24.
“I think they are playing better together,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “And what we got to realize is these guys haven’t played a lot of basketball together — all these guys are new. The more they get acclimated with playing with one another, playing off one another, it’s my hope that we can get better and better as the years goes along.
Eastern Michigan did get off to a positive start, knocking down a couple of 3-pointers in the first eight minutes to take a 16-13 lead. But that wouldn’t last for too long. Senior guard Courvoisier McCauley hit a 3-pointer to tie the game, which set DePaul on its way to a dominating final 38 minutes.
Senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty, the nation’s third leading scorer, led the way once again for the Blue Demons. He got pretty much anything he wanted in the first half, driving to the basket with ease and hitting a couple of deep 3-pointers.
It was Freeman-Liberty’s 13 points in the final 5:39 of the first half that helped DePaul build its 24-point halftime advantage. The Blue Demons’ defense began to wreak havoc that jump-started the team’s transition offense. Eastern Michigan only scored seven points in the final seven minutes, while DePaul scored 31 in that stretch.
A lot of DePaul’s offense in the first half was built on creating turnovers which led to 18 points. Freeman-Liberty scored a game-high 20 points in the first half, as DePaul went into the break leading 53-29.
“I just got to thank my teammates,” Freeman-Liberty said. “I wouldn’t be in this position without them.”
It was the same story to begin the second half, with DePaul continuing to build its lead. The Blue Demons opened the half on a 10-0 run.
Stubblefield received contributions from his entire team, including some players who have yet to really make their mark this season. Senior forward Yor Anei, who is in his first season with the program, had his best game of the season: scoring seven points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking four shots.
McCauley also had his best game in a Blue Demon uniform, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting. With DePaul’s win virtually secured, it allowed Stubblefield a chance to give some of his starters a rest.
Freeman-Liberty, who came into Sunday’s game 12th in the country in minutes per game, only played seven minutes in the second half due to the Blue Demons’ large lead.
DePaul broke the 100-point mark for the first time this season. In addition to Freeman-Liberty’s strong performance, Ongenda finished with 16 points and sophomore forward David Jones added 12 points.
The Blue Demons will be back in action next Saturday when Loyola Chicago pays a visit to Wintrust Arena, the first meeting between the two programs since 2013.