DePaul men’s basketball edges Lewis 84-79 in exhibition game

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It was an offseason of roster turnover for DePaul men’s basketball, leading to seven new players joining the team and plenty of optimism for Head Coach Oliver Purnell.

Purnell repeatedly told the media during the offseason that his new players would give the Blue Demons a lot of options going forward.  At DePaul’s first exhibition game of the season Tuesday, DePaul’s fourth-year head coach experimented with those options.

Mixing with lineups and rotations, Purnell seldom used the same lineup in a sloppy 84-79 victory over Lewis University.  

“We didn’t get any chance to get a rhythm because we were using 12 guys in the first half and 13 in the second half,” Purnell said. “It’s hard to develop any rhythm like that, so we just have to play through it.”

The Blue Demons relied on their new big men early on. With freshman Tommy Hamilton and senior Sandi Marcius starting at the power forward and center positions, both men were the fed the basketball in the post.

Hamilton and Marcius struggled offensively, combining for just eight points. The two, however, did have a positive effect rebounding the ball. Marcius led the team with 10 rebounds, while Hamilton finished with seven.

Purnell said that he thought the big men had a positive impact, but needed to see the tape for further assessment.  

“I thought they rebounded the ball pretty decently,” Purnell said. “I thought they did okay without really looking at it.”

DePaul’s backcourt also often saw many different lineups. Purnell started the game with Brandon Young and Charles McKinney at the guard spots, but varied it up by playing freshman Billy Garrett Jr. on and off the ball.

The many lineup changes led to the Blue Demons having to find their way, which caused the Blue Demons looking lost in spots. The team trailed 37-34 at halftime.

“Just out of my experience, (there were) first game, nervous jitters,” guard Brandon Young said about the team being behind at halftime. “Rushing, not being patient, so that’s about it. We’ve just got to be patient.”

However, while some areas might be different, there were a lot of familiarities with DePaul’s brand of basketball. Most notably, Young and Cleveland Melvin continue to be the foundation of the Blue Demons’ offense.

Young had a terrific night, scoring 22 points (9-14 FG) and sparked DePaul’s second half offense. Young came out of halftime and scored eight consecutive points. Young also had four rebounds and three assists.

Melvin also came to life in the second half. After scoring just two points in the first, Melvin ended up with 17 points in 22 minutes. This was the first game where Melvin started at the small forward position.

Despite DePaul’s success in the second half, Young said he wasn’t satisfied with the team’s performance.

“I’m not taking away any credit from Lewis – they are a great team – but we should have won by more points,” Young said. “We should have played hard for forty minutes. We only did that for the second half. We can’t do that against the good teams.”

On a positive note, Purnell said he now has a lot more footage to find out what does and doesn’t work. This game was more of a learning experience, he said.

“We have to play harder in order to be successful,” Purnell said. “Our energy needs to be better.”
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KEY OBSERVATIONS

  • From what he saw initially, Purnell said he liked going small with three wing players (Young, Garrett Jr., McKinney or Melvin, Greg Sequele at the power forward position, and either Hamilton or Marcius at center. For the regular season, Purnell estimated about a nine-man rotation.
  • DePaul’s rebounding looked improved, outrebounding Lewis 47 to 38. Purnell mentioned that he needs to see guards more involved in grabbing rebounds.
  • Marcius was the anchor of the defense, rotating on screens and covering the middle of the paint. On Marcius’ defense performance, Purnell said, “I think he will get better and better. He’s the defensive key, no question about it.”
  • Garrett Jr. was a tale of two halves, going 0-5 in the first and 4-8 in the second. The freshman finished with 12 points and four assists in 24 minutes.
  • Part of DePaul’s sloppiness was turnovers. The team turned the ball over 16 times.
  • Coming up next, DePaul plays against Grambling State Saturday, Nov. 9.