Johnson shines as DePaul wins opener 72-66 over Loyola (MD)


Amber Stoutenborough

Senior Javan Johnson slams home a dunk against Loyola (MD) in DePaul’s 70-63 win Monday night.

DePaul men’s basketball started off the 2022-23 season in the win column, after defeating Loyola (MD) 72-66 on Monday night, highlighted by Javan Johnson’s career high 24 points. 

The Blue Demons won their fifth straight season opener and improved to 87-14 all-time in the first game of the season.

“Over the course of 40 minutes, I thought we did some good things at times,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “I thought our defensive intensity was good for the first 20 minutes of the game. We did a good job sharing the basketball, I just didn’t think we came out with the same intensity that we needed for that second 20 minutes. We’re glad to get the win, but we know we’ve got a lot of things to get better at.”

Prior to the start of the game, three Blue Demons weren’t dressed to play, including junior guard Caleb Murphy (wrist), senior center Nick Ongenda (wrist) and senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit (coaches decision).

Ongenda was on the court during pregame warmups, but was seen wearing a cast on his left wrist. Gebrewhit didn’t dress due to non-basketball related reasons, which will be resolved internally.

“With Nick’s [Ongenda] injury, I would say he’s day-to-day, week-to-week and it was kind of a freak accident,” said Stubblefield. “It happened in practice on Saturday. With Phil [Gebrewhit], it’s more of an internal situation. It’s nothing from an injury standpoint and it’s more of an internal situation that we have to work through.”

Junior guard Jalen Terry attempts a shot in the second half against Loyola (MD) in Monday night’s win. (Amber Stoutenborough)

The Blue Demons were in control of the entire first half, entering the break with a 38-25 lead. Javan Johnson and graduate transfer Umoja Gibson played key roles in the first half.

Johnson’s play was sensational from start to finish, but Gibson’s play on both sides of the ball played a key role in DePaul’s victory Monday night. Gibson finished with 12 points, six assists (career high), five rebounds and three steals. 

The Blue Demons scored 22 of their 72 points off the fast break, primarily led by Gibson forcing turnovers. He believes this is something we could see from him the rest of the season.

“Oh yeah most definitely,” said Gibson. “That’s why Coach Stubbs brought me here to run the point guard position more and just lead the team. You can definitely see me run the fast break more and create more opportunities for others and myself throughout the course of the season.

Johnson stepped up during last night’s victory notching his first career double-double, scoring 24 points and 10 rebounds, knowing Caleb Murphy and Nick Ongenda weren’t expected to play. 

“I felt like I was scoring throughout the flow of the game,” said Johnson. “I wasn’t forcing too much and Mo [Umoja Gibson] was able to find me a couple of threes. I didn’t feel any pressure because they were hurt. I just played within the game.”

It was all DePaul in the first half, but they struggled to put the game away in the second half. The Greyhounds kept batting and after DePaul had multiple 13 point leads throughout the game, eventually the Greyhounds brought it to six.

“We were able to build a 13 point lead a couple times tonight,” Stubblefield said. “We’ve got to be able to build off that lead, but we obviously didn’t do that tonight.”

DePaul snuck out with a win last night. Still, a win is a win. Johnson could be a star in the making for the Blue Demons, as late in the game he delivered when his team needed him most on both ends of the court. The graduate senior forward had a block and a steal each to go with shooting four-for-seven beyond the arc.

“I think Javan [Johnson] played extremely well,” said Stubblefield. “He’s a young man that’s worked really hard and I thought he came into his own last year when he had the injury. And obviously he’s bounced back from that injury, worked really hard, had a great summer, fall and preseason for us. He’a a really good player.”

DePaul will be back in action this Friday, when they host Western Illinois at Wintrust Arena. Tip-off is set for 9:00 PM CST.