Blue Demons take down Gophers 69-53, win fourth straight Gavitt Games matchup


Kelly Hagenson | Minnesota Athletics

Junior forward De’Sean Nelson boxes out Minnesota freshman guard Braeden Carrington in DePaul’s 69-53 win on Monday night.

MINNEAPOLIS — DePaul men’s basketball picked up their fourth straight Gavitt Games Tip-off victory in Minneapolis on Monday night, after taking down Minnesota 69-53. The Blue Demons improved to 3-0 for the second consecutive season under head coach Tony Stubblefield.

“I think we did some things really good over the course of the 40 minutes,” Stubblefield said. “I think there’s some things that we can get much better at, but to be able to go on the road and outrebounded a team by 16 and stay together in a hostile environment, I am proud of our guys. I think we’re getting better.”

The Gavitt Tip-off is an annual eight-game series played between the Big Ten Conference and the Big East Conference early in the college basketball season.

Coming into Monday night, Minnesota had won 16 straight non-conference games with their last loss coming to DePaul in 2019 by a score of 73-68. The Blue Demons have now won five straight games against Big Ten Conference opponents.

Winning on the road at the Barn is no easy task, but the Blue Demons showed up and showed out. DePaul controlled the game from start to finish and the offense was clicking from the first tip. 

The Blue Demons had four players score double-digits, led by graduate transfer Javan Johnson’s 20 points and senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit’s 15 off the bench.

“[Philmon] has played in tough, hostile environments in the Big East,” Stubblefield said. “He’s played against high-level opponents. One thing Phil has really done…he’s practiced extremely hard, defended and brings great energy. I think that carried over tonight with his performance, was really proud of him.”

Senior guard Philmon Gebrewhit (left) and junior forward De’Sean Nelson (right) defend a shot attempt by Minnesota sophomore forward Dawson Garcia in DePaul’s win over the Gophers on Monday. ( Kelly Hagenson | Minnesota Athletics)

The Gophers were short-handed tonight after not having junior forward Jameson Battle, but the team knew that the focus would be on North Carolina sophomore transfer Dawson Garcia. The 6-foot-11 forward finished with 19 points, 6 rebounds and a block, while shooting two-for-six from beyond the arc.

“We knew that they had that Garcia kid,” Johnson said. “We knew Garcia was the key factor and wanted to emphasize not letting him get going. As far as their guards, we wanted to pressure them and force them out to make the post feeds harder for them to get to.”

Johnson’s offensive play led the way for DePaul and helped the team pull away in the second half, scoring 13 points after halftime. Johnson grabbed eight rebounds and dished two assists to go with his team-high 20 points.

“It was a good performance for me,” Johnson said. “I was just really trying to play within the offense and kind of get shots where they were falling. Any night, it could be anyone on this team and that’s the beauty of it. We got a lot of guys that can score and a lot of guys that can make plays for one another.”

The Blue Demon’s defense was stout during Monday’s victory over the Gophers, holding the offense to 33 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc, along with forcing 13 Minnesota turnovers.

“I was happy to see that we forced 13 turnovers,” Stubblefield said. “Something I think we really did a great job of in the first two games is disrupting [opponents] defensively. I think we changed defenses up a couple of times tonight, I think that helped us. We trapped a couple ball screens and trapped a little bit in the post and I think we kept them on the edge a little bit. Our guys played with great effort on the defensive end.”

Long Island University transfer Eral Penn’s effort on the defensive side of the ball and on the boards paid dividends during Monday’s victory. Penn secured his first Blue Demon double-double, scoring 10 points with a team-high 14 rebounds as well as two blocks on the defensive end.

“Eral [Penn] is a high energy guy,” Stubblefield said. “He’s going to play hard every time he steps out there on the floor. He does a great job rebounding the basketball. He’s a great leader for us. He’s an older, experienced guy, and that’s what he brings to the table.”

Minnesota has a lot of size and length, but even though DePaul was missing starting center senior Nick Ongenda, they still outrebounded the Gophers 48-32 on the glass.

“That was a big emphasis coming into this game,” Stubblefield said. “Minnesota does a great job on the glass. They sent three to four guys to the offensive glass and we knew we were going to have to box them out. We really prepared from a rebounding standpoint and talked about it a lot over and over the last couple of days.”

DePaul controlled most of the second half, but things started to get a little worrisome after Minnesota went on 7-0 run around the 12-minute mark in the second half. Eventually, Stubblefield and the Blue Demons adjusted after a timeout and kept their foot on the gas for the remainder of the game.

“Teams are gonna go on runs,” Stubblefield said. “That’s what I told our guys coming into the game. The crowd is going to get involved in the game and we just have to keep our composure and get what we want and get a good shot on the offensive end and be able to get shots and rebounds. They went on a run and I knew they would at some point in time, but I think our guys did a good job of bouncing back from that.”

Graduate transfer Umoja Gibson had a quiet second half, scoring only five points, but he hit the Gophers with a deep, three-point dagger to extend DePaul’s lead by 16 with 2:22 remaining. After the shot, Williams Arena went silent knowing Gibson sealed the Gopher’s fate for the night and the hope of a comeback was all but lost.

DePaul will be back in action this Friday, when they travel to the Bahamas to take on the Santa Clara Broncos with tip-off set for 8:30 PM CST on CBSSN.