Senior Nick Ongenda exits the court following DePaul’s 84-70 loss to Creighton on senior night at Wintrust Arena. (Patrick Sloan-Turner)
Senior Nick Ongenda exits the court following DePaul’s 84-70 loss to Creighton on senior night at Wintrust Arena.

Patrick Sloan-Turner

Blue Dozen: DePaul drops 12th straight, bids farewell to seniors in finale

March 6, 2023

It was a somber senior night for the DePaul men’s basketball team Saturday as they fell short to Creighton, 84-70. The Blue Demons’ 12-straight losses mark its longest losing streak since the team lost 18-straight during the 2008-09 season. 

The Blue Demons finished the season 9-22 overall and 3-17 in conference, only above Georgetown in the Big East standings.

Through the first ten minutes of the first half at Wintrust Arena, both offenses were sluggish, with DePaul shooting 4-17 and Creighton shooting 6-19 from the field. The Bluejays were able to find its stroke first, finishing the first half shooting 15-33. 

Sophomore guard Trey Alexander, junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner, freshman center Fredrick King and sophomore guard Ryan Nembhard combined for 34 of its 39 first-half points.

The Blue Demons’ defense produced five first-half blocks but kept giving Creighton too many opportunities, leading to 12 second-chance points. Yet, it was DePaul’s own shooting woes that doomed the Demons in the first half. They shot an underwhelming 27% from the field.  

“We missed some really good looks in the first half,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said. “We got some looks for our guys that we wanted, but we just didn’t knock them down.”

Senior center Nick Ongenda hangs from the rim after throwing down a two-handed dunk in the first half against Creighton on Saturday. (Patrick Sloan-Turner)

DePaul entered halftime down 39-24 and trailed by as much as 18 before mounting any comeback. Down 43-26 and needing a spark, junior guard Caleb Murphy came off the bench and delivered. 

Murphy scored nine of his 13 points as the Blue Demons went on a 28-13 second-half run, cutting the deficit to five and forcing Creighton to call a timeout.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Murphy said. “The coaching staff told me to play my game, play with confidence and be aggressive. I had that in the back of my head during the game.”

DePaul’s second-half comeback should not have come as a surprise.

“We watched them against Marquette in the second half on how explosive they can be offensively,” Creighton head coach Greg McDermott said. “ We didn’t have an answer, but fortunately, we were scoring enough to keep the lead. Then we came out of the timeout and executed a few things and tightened up our defense for the rest of the way.”

After the timeout with 10:44 remaining in the game, Creighton hit back-to-back threes, shutting the door on DePaul’s comeback attempt. From then on, the Bluejays were able to close out the game comfortably. 

Junior guard Caleb Murphy drives past a Creighton defender in DePaul’s loss to the Bluejays on Saturday. (Patrick Sloan-Turner)

For Creighton, it was a solid performance to cap off a roller coaster of a season. The Bluejays started the season 6-0 and were ranked No. 10 in the nation before losing six-straight. They were able to bounce-back, winning 11 of its next 13, before losing three of the last five.

The Blue Demons shot 55% in the second half and finished the game shooting 40%. Senior Javan Johnson led the way for DePaul, finishing with 18 points and five assists.

It was not all doom and gloom for DePaul, as seven Blue Demons were honored beforehand on senior night: Philmon Gebrewhit, Brendan Favre, Umoja Gibson, Javan Johnson, Nick Ongenda, Eral Penn and Yor Anei. Stubblefield addressed the seniors beforehand and emphasized that they needed to just play their game and avoid getting caught up in the emotions.

“It was definitely a sad experience as I stepped onto the court for the last time,” Ongenda said. “I built plenty of memories with my teammates, but I was also very happy to be a four-year DePaul player. But once the game started, I locked in.”

Next up is the Big East Conference Tournament, where No. 7 seed Seton Hall awaits them. Despite riding a 12-game losing streak, no one on the Blue Demons is deterred.

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  • Junior guard Jalen Terry (right) comforts senior forward Eral Penn in DePaul’s senior night loss to Creighton on Saturday night. Penn was one of seven seniors honored prior to the game.

  • Graduate forward Javan Johnson drives to the lane against senior Creghton guard Baylor Scheierman during Saturday’s 84-70 loss.

  • Head coach Tony Stubblefield surveys the court during his team’s loss to Creighton on senior day, March 4, 2023, at Wintrust Arena, in Chicago, Ill. Patrick Sloan-Turner

  • Junior guard Jalen Terry directs his teammates’ in DePaul’s matchup with Creighton at Wintrust Arena on Saturday.

  • A frustrated Caleb Murphy (23) exits the court following DePaul’s loss to Creighton on senior night at Wintrust Arena.

  • Senior center Nick Ongenda attempts a layup over Creighton big-man Ryan Kalkbrenner in DePaul’s loss to the Bluejays on Saturday.

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“These guys are really resilient and bounce back,” Stubblefield said. “They keep a positive attitude, and they know we have a chance. We’ve won games against good teams in this conference, against Villanova and Xavier. We’ve lost some games that we should have won. 

We’re back healthy and our players realize with a healthy team, they can beat anyone in the conference.”

DePaul lost both of its regular season games against Seton Hall, with both coming down to the wire.  

“We’ve got to play together for 40 minutes and score the basketball,” Stubblefield said. “Seton Hall is a very good team defensively. They have good athletes and guys that can guard multiple positions.”

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