The pre-game festivities awarded DePaul’s seniors for a trio of great careers. The game made one wonder if the team only came for the ceremony.
As emotional as the opening goodbyes were for Brandon Young, Edwind McGhee and Sandi Marcius, the Blue Demons failed to translate any kind of excitement into production, falling behind 18-4 within the blink of an eye and never recovering on the way to a 33-point, 79-46 loss to Butler Thursday.
The game was ominous from the start. Marcius sprained his ankle after stepping on a ball during pre-game warm-ups, and Billy Garrett Jr. suffered a nosebleed minutes before tipoff.
“Everything just seemed to snowball,” Purnell said.
It was a battle to determine who would finish last in the Big East as the season came to a close. DePaul (11-20, 3-15 Big East) seemingly saved its worst for last, putting together a performance as putrid as any in the past four seasons under Oliver Purnell.
“I think the frustration just built all game long,” Purnell said. “We had a few runs in the second half, but it was one thing after another and it was too much for our guys.”
DePaul hit its first field goal just under four minutes in, but by then it was already too late. Butler surged ahead as the Demons got sloppy with the ball, taking a 15-2 lead before DePaul even got their feet under them. Butler (13-16, 3-14) continued to build on its lead until Tommy Hamilton IV was ejected for elbowing a Bulldogs player. It only got worse from there.
Brandon Young, playing his final game at Allstate Arena, led the Blue Demons with 10 points at the half-but no other Demon scored more than two. DePaul finished the half shooting 7-for-25. Young scored with just seconds left to make it 33-18, but Butler hit an inside shot followed by a steal and a three pointer to complete a 5-0 run in less than three seconds as the clock ran down. The Bulldogs finished the half with a 38-18 lead.
And from there, it got even worse. Butler opened the second half on another 15-2 run to take a 33-point lead five minutes in. The Bulldogs called a timeout with the score at 53-20, and boos could be heard raining down on Purnell’s squad as they trudged to the bench.
Butler grabbed a 65-31 lead on a fast-break follow up dunk to essentially seal the deal. DePaul never got closer than 20 the rest of the way, en-route to arguably their worst performance of the season.
Young led all scorers with 24 points and Garrett finished with 12, but the other 10 players combined for a measly 10 total points on 4-of-22 shooting.
Still, there were emotional goodbyes at the very end, as Marcius, McGhee and Young were all subbed out within a minute of each other with the game out of reach, and the crowd gave them standing ovations as their careers came to a close.
“I wouldn’t trade this experience for nothing…If I had to do it again, I’d come back here,” Young said. “I just look forward to the next day, the next play, just be positive. Like I said, I wouldn’t trade this experience for nothing. These guys are my brothers.”
DePaul plays March 12 in New York as the Big East tournament opens. It remains to be seen who the Blue Demons will play, but the squad will enter the tourney as the lowest seed.