Men’s basketball: DePaul closes out regular season with loss at UConn


AP Photo/Stew Milne

Connecticut’s Andre Jackson (44) falls on top of DePaul’s Nick Ongenda (14) as Connecticut’s Isaiah Whaley (5) helps defend on the play during the second half

DePaul had no answer for UConn’s physicality and strength in Saturday’s regular season finale. The Huskies controlled the paint from the start and cruised to a 75-68 victory Saturday afternoon.

The Blue Demons simply could not contain UConn’s star big man Adama Sanogo, who finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds. From the very first minute, he dominated the paint and didn’t give DePaul’s defense one moment to breathe.

Sanogo set the tempo of the game and the rest of his teammates followed suit. UConn attacked the paint with vengeance and was never met with much resistance from DePaul. 

The Huskies’ first 16 points came inside the paint, which allowed them to build a six-point lead. On the other side, DePaul’s offense struggled to find any consistency. The Blue Demons had multiple good looks around the rim that wouldn’t go in. 

Courvoisier McCauley and Philmon Gebrewhit provided a quick burst off the bench by hitting two consecutive 3-pointers to cut UConn’s lead to two, 18-16. 

But DePaul’s inability to protect the paint and get consistent stops prevented it from keeping the score within a couple of points. UConn’s entire offense went through Sanogo, who rarely got doubled in the post. 

The Huskies had two runs in the first half that put some distance between them and DePaul. A 7-0 run in the middle of the half opened up a 25-18 lead, and then a 6-0 run that increased UConn’s lead to 11. 

Jalen Terry and Javon Freeman-Liberty gave DePaul some hope with five consecutive points that made it a 35-29 deficit, but Tyler Polley responded with a 3-pointer and Sanogo closed the first half just how he began it — with an uncontested layup to send UConn into the break up 11.

As of late, DePaul had been playing much better on both ends of the floor, which is why it has been able to win three consecutive Big East games for the first time in seven years. 

But the Blue Demons didn’t play with nearly the same energy and intensity that they played with against Marquette Wednesday night, when DePaul outscored the visitors 58-43 in the second half to win by 11. 

It was a different story on Saturday. UConn controlled much of the game and dictated how the game was going to be played. 

Most of the second half played out similarly to the first half, with the Huskies building their lead up to 18 at one point. UConn finished the game with 48 points in the paints and 19 second-chance points.

Head coach Tony Stubblefield has preached this year the importance of winning the rebounding battle and limiting the other teams’ ability to get second-chance points. That did not work against UConn.

Led by Sanogo, the Huskies outrebounded the Blue Demons 49-31 and had six more second-chance points. DePaul actually knocked down seven more 3-pointers than UConn, with some of them coming down the stretch in the second half. 

Freeman-Liberty managed to get hot in the closing minutes by hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points in the final four minutes. His scoring burst brought DePaul within five at one point, the Huskies managed to get crucial defensive stops in the final minute. 

Brandon Johnson chipped in with 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while David Jones also attempted 16 shots and scored 13. DePaul also shot 6-of-14 shooting from the free-throw line, including missing several attempts late in the game. 

DePaul closes out the regular season with a 15-15 overall record and 6-14 in the Big East, which is good enough for 10th in the Big East. The Blue Demons will play St. John’s in the first round of the Big East Tournament on March 9.