Three things to watch out for: DePaul men’s basketball vs. UIC

DePaul men’s basketball makes their season debut Friday at 9 p.m. at McGrath-Phillips Arena against UIC.

After going 12-21 last season, the Blue Demons look to start their season strong with a win over UIC. The Flames went 6-25 under head coach Howard Moore in 2013-14.

UIC is one of four schools that DePaul will play from Illinois this season.

“The opening game is an interesting one,” Head coach Oliver Purnell said to Radio DePaul. “We try to play all the teams in and around the city because we think that helps college basketball and helps DePaul.”

The Flames will have six new players on this year’s roster, including fifth-year senior Jay Harris. Harris, who transferred from Wagner University, looks to mesh well with starter Jay Parker in the backcourt. UIC has just two starters from a season ago, and three new players to hope to provide a spark.

For DePaul, the Blue Demons are coming off a 72-68 exhibition win over Lewis University. Here are thee areas to watch for Friday’s game:

Can DePaul dominate?

In their first exhibition game against Lewis University, DePaul played very inconsistent at times. They went through stretches where they were able to shut Lewis down and grow a lead, but Lewis was able to stick around.

An area to measure will be how DePaul clicks offensively and if they can sustain any lead they grow.  Also watch for how DePaul is able to score. Will the ball movement be fluid, leading to easy baskets? Or will players settle for long twos at the end of the shot clock? Fluid ball movement will lead to more success.

Injuries and minutes

The season is just beginning and DePaul is already battling injuries.  Forward Rashaun Stimage is out until conference play with a foot fracture and forward Peter Ryckbosch is out for the year with an ACL tear.
Purnell said before the season started that he was looking forward to this team’s depth, and it will be important for that depth to stay healthy. Guard Darrick Wood has been struggling with a knee injury throughout the offseason, and his minutes will be continued to be monitored.  Wood play in just four minutes in the exhibition opener.

Garrett, who was held out the majority of the second half vs. Lewis with a cramp, will be good to go. Garrett said the cramp was a result of not eating carbs before the game, and not a crisis of his sickle cell disease.

Defensive presence

As the Blue Demons continue their efforts to become a team with a defensive first mentality, one aspect of the defense they have to improve on is preventing points in the paint. Lewis scored 44 points in the paint and shot 52 percent.

UIC, on the other hand, averaged just 42 percent on shots last season and only 66.8 points per game. This was a team that struggled to score the basketball last year, and it will be telling if DePaul can’t shut them down.