Men’s Basketball: DePaul falls to Providence at home


Nate Burleyson

Providence Senior guard A.J. Reeves celebrates a 3-pointer in the first half.

Nothing went DePaul’s way versus No. 21 Providence on Saturday. Nothing worked on the offensive end. Nothing worked to contain Providence’s high-octane offense. Even free throw shooting was a struggle for the Blue Demons.

It was a rough game for DePaul, in particular the first 20 minutes. The Blue Demons came out flat and paid the price for it against one of the better teams in the Big East, losing 70-53 at Wintrust Arena.

“They beat us tonight, flat out beat us, and I take 100 percent the blame [for] not having these guys ready to play at this level, ” DePaul men’s basketball head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “I told them in the locker room that’s on me as a coach.”

From the start, Providence looked and played like the better team. The Friars were all over on the defensive end, keeping players in front of them, contesting every shot and keeping DePaul out of the paint. On the offensive end, Ed Cooley’s team shared the ball, attacked the paint and hit open 3-pointers.

DePaul simply had no answer for the 21st-ranked team in the country. The Blue Demons held a 5-3 lead in the opening two minutes of the game, but after that it was all Providence.

Sophomore forward David Jones returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing the last game due to health and safety protocols. Jones, the team’s second-leading scorer, wasn’t able to have a big enough impact on the game. He only scored three points, which came as a buzzer-beater to end the first half.

In fact, senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty was the only DePaul player who had a good game. He was the only one of two players to finish in double figures, with Brandon Johnson being the other one.

A problem that has hurt DePaul this season, especially in all of its losses, is long stretches of not scoring. That was an issue again on Saturday — and it began early in the first half. After junior guard Philmon Gebrewhit hit a 3-pointer with 18:25 left in the first half, DePaul didn’t score for nearly four minutes.

Providence, however, scored eight straight points to go up 11-5. That was the story all game long: DePaul going through long stretches without scoring, while Providence kept on adding to its lead.

The game-changing stretch came in the final 10 minutes of the first half. DePaul had some momentum going after Johnson scored four straight points to pull the Blue Demons within six, 20-14, with 9:27 to play in the half. That momentum wouldn’t last long.

“They were taking some things away from us defensively, and we didn’t make the adjustments,” Stubblefield said. “We didn’t come out with the intensity that you need to beat a team like Providence.”

DePaul went nearly the final 9:27 without scoring a single point until Jones hit a 3-pointer to end the half, while the Friars scored 22 straight points to go up 28, their largest lead of the game.

Providence did all of those with its leading scorer this season, Nate Watson, only scoring two points the entire first half. Watson finished the game with only three points on 1-of-9 shooting. Justin Minaya led the way in the first half with 10 points and eight rebounds.

“We got to do a better job of fighting the dribble, knowing where guys are at on the floor, being connected defensively and being tough enough once we get the stop coming up with the rebound,” Stubblefield said.

For DePaul, there might as well have been a lid on the basket it was shooting at in the first half. The Blue Demons shot 23.1 percent from the field, 30 percent from the 3-point line and only 33.3 percent from the free-throw line.

DePaul’s numbers improved in the second half and it outscored Providence in the final 20 minutes, 36-28. But the deficit was too large for DePaul to ever really threaten the Friars.

Freeman-Liberty scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half, providing a little spark to the Blue Demons’ quiet offensive performance. He was also the only DePaul player who shot 50 percent from the field, no other player had more than two made field goals.

The loss drops DePaul to 9-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big East. The Blue Demons will get a couple days off before they visit St. John’s on Wednesday.