DePaul has a trend of going through long stretches without scoring. This trend continued throughout their 71-59 loss to conference rival Creighton. The loss hands DePaul their 3-12 conference record and 12-13 record overall.
The first half was a slow start for the Blue Demons, with the team suffering offensive problems early on. They didn’t score until the 17 minute mark of the game, shooting 28 percent from the field. Then their second leading scorer sophomore forward David Jones exited the game within the opening minutes due to injury.
But behind the leadership of sophomore guard Jalen Terry and senior guard Javon Freeman-Liberty, the team picked it up offensively, hitting five of their next six field goals, including a poster from Freeman-Liberty that electrified the crowd and sparked the team, especially defensively.
The team’s defense was strong, holding the team to 34 percent from the field and 21 percent from the 3-point line and forcing seven turnovers. Terry controlled the pace, exploiting what the defense gave him and creating opportunities for the offense to flow. But DePaul had moments when scoring droughts took place, including toward the end of the half where he didn’t make a field goal over a four minute stretch, and hit only one field goal in the final three minutes of the half. Creighton hung in the game, eventually taking the lead at halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-point shot.
At halftime, being down 33-31, DePaul shot 40 percent from the field and 20 percent from the 3-point line while committing four turnovers. Terry led the way with 11 points, while senior guard Courvosier McCauley, who replaced Jones in the lineup, brought seven points off the bench. Freeman-Liberty was limited to four points in nine minutes of play.
Nothing much changed in the second half. DePaul started the half on a three minute scoring drought before McCauley broke the drought with a scoring left hand layup at the 16 minute mark. But another two-minute scoring drought took place before Terry broke the drought with his running layup. The team went 1-8 from the field following Terry’s layup. Creighton came out strong, and DePaul struggled to slow them down on the defensive end.
But DePaul stormed back with back-to-back 3-point field goals from Terry and McCauley. Although he was struggling to score the ball, Freeman-Liberty stepped up and hit a big shot, pushing the Blue Demons to hit their next three field goals to keep the game close. Freeman-Liberty slowly began to heat up on the offensive end, continuing to play aggressive by attacking the rim and drawing fouls to develop a rhythm.
However, Creighton’s offense was too much, using their big men in pick and roll situations that led to post up finishes in the paint, an area they dominated DePaul 32-18. DePaul’s lack of offense down the stretch did not help either, going on a five-minute stretch of not hitting a field goal and two-minute scoring drought that prevented DePaul from getting back into the game.
Freeman-Liberty finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Terry added 18 points, while McCauley scored 12 points.
Defensively, the team held Creighton to 41 percent shooting and 27 percent behind the arc.
“You should be able to give yourself a great chance to win the game when you defend like that,” Head coach Tony Stubblefied said.
But DePaul got out rebounded 43-40, with their guards (Freeman-Liberty, Terry and McCauley) grabbing 22 of the team’s 40 rebounds.
“We got to be a little more physical,” Stubblefield said. “Our physicality has got to improve, especially in this league. They were battling a big guy and they were having a hard enough time trying to block him out, let alone block him out and get the rebound. But we’ll get there.”
Offensively, the team shot 27 percent in the second half and finished the game shooting 34 percent from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line. As the scoring go-to option, Freeman-Liberty shot 4-22 from the field. Outside of Freeman-Liberty going 9-12 from the free throw line, the rest of the team shot 5-10.
“You are not going to shoot the ball well for 30 games over the course of the year. This happened to be a night where we struggled shooting the ball,” Stubblefield said. “I thought we got some really good looks from the right guys. They just were not able to knock them down.”
With offensive struggles, the team could have used Jones’ presence. Stubblefield understood the impact that Jones brings to the team, and knows that his absence was felt throughout the game.
,[Jones] over the course of the last four games was averaging 17 points and nine rebounds and four/five assists,” Stubblefield said. “Obviously, it’s going to impact our team and our game but other guys are going to have to step up when they get the opportunity.”
DePaul’s next men’s basketball game is on Saturday, Feb. 19 at 7:00 pm at Seton Hall, which can be viewed on FS1.