The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

DePaul faces first 0-2 start in 17 years after losses to Purdue Fort Wayne and Long Beach State

Will Robson
DePaul’s starting five huddle before their home opener against Purdue Fort Wayne on November 7, 2023 at Wintrust Arena.

Despite a strong second-half resurgence by DePaul, it wasn’t enough to erase a 22-point deficit from the first half as the team suffered a 77-73 loss to Long Beach State on Saturday night. This marks DePaul’s first 0-2 start since the 2006 season.

Both losses carried additional disappointment as they were categorized as “buy game” defeats for the program.

A “buy game” refers to a matchup where a team from a major conference hosts one from a smaller conference. For the smaller schools, these games serve as an opportunity to earn essential funds for athletics programs and are allocated toward various expenses such as team travel, equipment, scholarships and other program needs.

“I am proud of the guys for fighting back in the game,” head coach Tony Stubblefield said of the team’s performance. “We’re digging ourselves a type of hole that we are letting these games get away. We just got to come back tomorrow, and we’ve got to get better.”

Despite the overall challenging first week for the Blue Demons, a bright spot emerged with the rise of a new star. Elijah Fisher, a sophomore guard and former five-star recruit from Texas Tech, had a breakout game Saturday night, recording his first double-digit scoring game. He ended the night with 25 points, with 20 coming in the second half.

“I felt like our team needed a spark coming off the bench and I just wanted that spark to help the team keep on going and keep on fighting,” Fisher said. “Whether it’s defense, whether it’s rebounding, whether it’s getting a steal. Doing whatever it takes for our team to win.” 

Even with Fisher’s breakout performance Saturday night, Stubblefield remained non-committal when asked if Fisher earned a starting spot in the rotation.

“He’s definitely giving himself a chance,” Stubblefield said. “Whether Elijah [Fisher] starts or comes off the bench, he is going to play starter minutes. He’s willing to accept that role for us.” 

The first half didn’t go as planned for DePaul as they were trailing 37-21 at halftime, highlighted by a 17-0 run by Long Beach State. The Blue Demons were also out-rebounded 24 to 15. 

“The one thing that was killing us was their offensive rebounds which is an easy fix,” senior guard Caleb Murphy said. “We’ve got to go to practice and work on it.”

As the first half was coming to an end, “fire Stubbs” chants resonated throughout Wintrust Arena, emphasizing the significance of the team’s lackluster performance on the court.

However, the team emerged with a revitalized sense of urgency in the second half, potentially fueling its resurgence. DePaul finished the second half shooting 58% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc.

“We went to halftime and basically were like, ‘We can’t be getting beat by 20 in the first half and on our own court,’ It’s unacceptable,” Murphy said of the team’s second-half gameplan. “Our solution was just start playing harder, which we did.” 

DePaul came remarkably close to staging a comeback when senior guard K.T. Raimey hit back-to-back three-pointers, narrowing the score to a one-point game at 74-73 with just 14 seconds remaining.

After securing a defensive stop and trailing by only three points with the game hanging in the balance, senior center Jeremiah Oden had an opportunity to level the score with a wide-open three-pointer as time expired but missed.

Facing the challenge of a 0-2 start and hindered by the absence of senior guard Jalen Terry and redshirt junior center Mac Etienne, the team could face challenges in bouncing back, particularly given the demanding schedule ahead.

“We gotta get back to practice and continue to figure this out and continue to work at it,” Stubblefield said. “We got to find a way to get this done with eight new guys. We’re truly trying to figure it out. It’s a work in progress, but it’s a work in progress we need to overcome very quickly.”

This loss was preceded by a game in which the Blue Demons fell short in an 82-74 loss at home against Purdue Fort Wayne Tuesday night. 

“I told our guys in the locker room I take full responsibility for this,” Stubblefield said after the game Tuesday. “This is my job, to have guys come out, execute better from an offensive standpoint, and have more fight defensively and not be in a situation where we’re turning the ball over 22 times.” 

Expected early-season challenges were part of the process, especially with 10 new players on the roster. Despite these challenges, Stubblefield chose not to view the team’s new roster as an excuse for the team’s surprise loss.

“I don’t really buy the new players [excuse],” Stubblefield said. “They had nine new players out there on that team we played tonight. Again, I’m not going to blame nobody on this, I’m going to blame myself because it all falls on me to get these guys better and to have them play better basketball than what we played tonight.”

Despite high aspirations for Stubblefield’s third season, the program may perceive the Tuesday loss as a setback with no improvement seen in the persistence of similar setbacks.

“It definitely wasn’t a step in the right direction,” Stubblefield said of whether Tuesday’s loss was a setback for the program. “Again, I take full responsibility for that and we will get it right.”

DePaul looks for its first win of the season as they face off against South Dakota at Wintrust Arena Tuesday, Nov. 14. The game starts at 8 p.m. and will be broadcasted on FoxSports2.

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