DePaul men’s basketball improves to 4-1 with win over NIU

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Aggression on both sides of the hardwood fueled DePaul men’s basketball Tuesday night against  Northern Illinois as they defeated the Huskies, 78-67.

“We were prepared mentally, we went head to head with them last year – so we knew what to expect,” senior Jamee Crockett said.

Crockett, who was named the game’s most valuable player with the Jay Goedert Memorial Award, scored 13 points and had four steals in a big night for the Blue Demons. There was no letdown after Sunday’s upset over Stanford. Instead, the Blue Demons carried their defensive intensity for another strong night.

“Coach stresses defense all the time, that’s been the main theme this season,” Crockett said. “I just try to go out and put my team in the best position to win.”

DePaul (4-1) set the antagonizing rhythm early, forcing 13 Huskie turnovers in the first half; seeing their lead climb to 16 at one point in the opening period.

The 2-2-1 full court press made it tough on the Huskies all night. NIU head coach Mark Montgomery said DePaul’s full court press “is a pester press.”

“We ran the same press in practice, but sometimes you can’t simulate the length and quickness that you’re going to see from an opponent,” Montogmery said. “Once they forced a few turnovers early, they turned the heat up even more and our guys just weren’t able step up.”

DePaul’s defense would prove to vital to their offense, as they scored 19 points off the early miscues from NIU in the first half alone.

Offensively, DePaul had its best night from three-point land, knocking down 11 of 22 attempts with a few big ones coming from senior Forrest Robinson, who was four of six from beyond the arc — including a 30 foot buzzer beater to douse 5-0 huskie run that would’ve otherwise closed the half.

Junior Myke Henry stayed hot with 15 points and four rebounds, while sophomore Tommy Hamilton chipped in 13 points and five assists. He was extremely efficient again on both sides of the ball for the Blue Demons, shooting six of nine from the field, in addition to three blocks and two steals.

“Our big thing with Hamilton was digging down and digging hard, making him get rid of the ball quickly,” Montgomery said. “He has too many moves inside. He’s got right shoulder, left shoulder, various spin moves, and some nice face up action. He can find guys from different spots on the floor, and if he gets that little 15-18 foot jump shot working. That’s tough to guard.”

A solid night for the Blue Demons wasn’t without its issues of course, as turnovers and rebounding margins were both in double digits by the end of the night.

The Huskies out rebounded DePaul 34 to 22 overall, and 13 to 5 on offensive boards, a stat DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said he knows his team must improve on.

“We knew they were good coming in (with rebounding),” Purnell said. “They’re fifth in the country when it comes to offensive rebounding I believe.

“Our rebounding mentality needs work,” he added. “We’ve gotta find a way to do a better job of that. It is a mentality more than anything and I’m encouraged that we’ll find it.”

For the Huskies, Darrell Bowie lead the way with 15 points and nine rebounds, coupled with three assist and three steals.

DePaul returns Thursday at 7 p.m. at Chicago State.