AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley
DePaul sophomore forward David Jones has previously said he’s built for the big moments. He relishes the big games.
On Friday, Jones proved that he’s not only ready to contribute against tough opposition, but that he can lead the team in a tough environment.
In a 62-55 victory over Louisville, Jones led the way with 33 points and 14 rebounds. It’s DePaul’s first road win on the season, improving the team to 8-1 in head coach Tony Stubblefield’s first year with the program.
The Blue Demons began their season by playing the first eight games at home, winning seven of them and the only loss coming to Loyola Chicago last Saturday. But DePaul finally took its talents on the road on Friday to face a former Big East rival: the Louisville Cardinals.
Coming into Friday’s game, the Cardinals had won 10 consecutive games against the Blue Demons. For long stretches of the game, it looked like that streak would extend to 11 games.
But Jones wasn’t having any of that. With most of his teammates struggling to shoot from the field, the sophomore forward put his team on his back — especially in the second half — to lead them to victory.
Louisville came out of the halftime break firing on all cylinders, building its lead up to 38-29 before DePaul found its groove on the offensive end.
The Blue Demons responded with their own 8-0 run to cut the deficit to one point. Jones contributed five points in that run, which was only the beginning of his dominant second half display.
In the following four minutes, Jones scored 12 straight points to put the Blue Demons up 46-44. He made his first six shots of the second half.
Both teams would trade leads in the following couple of minutes, with the Cardinals going up 50-49 with five minutes left in the game. That’s when Jones took the game over, scoring seven straight points to put DePaul up for good.
Senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty — who struggled with his shot on Friday, going 2-of-15 for eight points, hit only his second shot of the night to put DePaul up eight with less than three minutes to play.
Louisville cut into that lead with a quick 5-0 run, but Jones hit a clutch shot with 53 seconds left in the game to give the Blue Demons a five-point lead. Freeman-Liberty finished off the Cardinals with two free throws.
Prior to Friday’s victory over Louisville, DePaul’s best win of the season came over Rutgers Nov. 18, which is currently considered as a quadrant-three win, according to the NCAA NET rankings.
The victory over the Cardinals gives the Blue Demons their first quadrant-one win of the season.
While the ending went DePaul’s way, the first half featured a series of runs and some ugly offense that ended with Louisville going into the break up 29-26 following a 12-0 run.
The game began with DePaul missing 10 of its first 12 shot attempts. As a result, Louisville got up 15-6 before the Blue Demons got anything going.
But DePaul’s level of play increased following that, holding the Cardinals scoreless for over seven minutes while it went on a 10-0 run.
DePaul eventually built its lead up to nine, 26-17, before a poor final four minutes of the first half saw Louisville retake the lead.
Jones was the only Blue Demon who finished in double figures. Two other players, Freeman-Liberty and Philmon Gebrewhit finished with eight points.
Junior forward Nick Ongenda had one of his best all-around games in a Blue Demons jersey. He flirted with his first career triple-double before finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and eight blocks. His impact on the defensive end helped limit Louisville to only 31.1 percent shooting from the field.
DePaul continues its three-game road trip with a visit to UIC Tuesday night. The Blue Demons close out non-conference play against Northwestern on Dec. 18 before beginning Big East play two days later.