Winning basketball games often comes down to doing the little things. Hit your free throws, rebound the ball and make good decisions and the winning will take care of itself. Even though DePaul beat Alabama State 58-50 last night at Allstate Arena (photo gallery here), there are still a lot of things for the Blue Demons to work on, especially with the absence of Mac Koshwal.
The Blue Demons shot 51.4% from the free throw line on Wednesday. A terrible trend that was only slightly below DePaul's season average of 57.1%. Even as Jerry Wainwright and his coaching staff are focusing on having players like Will Walker and Jeremiah Kelly drive to the basket to generate easy points, those players are giving them right back with misses at the line.
Wainwright was particularly unhappy with his team's free throw shooting after the unnecessarily close game against the Hornets.
"I'm so sick and tired of answering questions about free throws," Wainwright said. "It is totally, totally unacceptable. Everybody's got a theory, this and that. ... I'm sick of practicing them. I'm sick of watching them make them in practice. And normally what happens is, as I told our team afterwards, 'In life if you don't perform at things you're expected to perform at, you are fired.'"
There's no chance that Walker (7-11 from the line) or Kelly (1-5 from the line) are going to be fired anytime soon. Wainwright needs those players to make plays. The other biggest culprit on Wednesday was Devin Hill. He shot 2-6 from the free throw line while playing 30 minutes in place of Koshwal. Hill scored 6 points and grabbed 8 boards, but he could've been even more productive with good shooting.
DePaul needed every single one of those rebounds as the Hornets, while undersized, crashed the glass hard and finished with a +11 rebounding advantage 42 to 31. Even though Alabama State had 17 turnovers compared to just 4 for the Blue Demons both teams took 49 shots.
Rebounding and free throw shooting (Alabama State shot 13-14 from the line) were what kept the game close for 40 minutes. The Hornets scored 5 fewer points from the free throw line on 21 fewer attempts. Against teams like Vanderbilt and Mississippi State the Blue Demons won't have the same luxury.
Wainwright though intends to keep on working with his young team. He expects them to go after it every game and every practice.
"Intensity should be a given," Wainwright said. "I think they really understand what's at stake."
That intensity has to lead to doing the little things right.