The game between Chicago State and DePaul offered a unique moment in this season. It was the opening of the Oliver Purnell era at DePaul and it was also Tracy Dildy's first test against a Division I opponent. Now, Dildy obviously understands that it is going to take some time to build the talent at Chicago State and get to level of DePaul, but the game was still a lot of fun. Watching these two very similar styles go head-to-head proved to be very entertaining. (Don't believe me? Check out my photo-gallery from the game.)
At first glance allowing the Cougars to score 81 points might look like a problem for DePaul, but considering that it was in 97 possessions, it's really not that bad. That's .835 points per possession. The Blue Demons' press really seemed to get to Chicago State at times and it shows as DePaul forced 30 turnovers and Chicago State shot 43.1 percent from the field for the game.
The exciting brand of basketball Purnell brought to Chicago encourages players to play hard defense if they want to be on the floor. 10 DePaul players played at least 10 minutes and Krys Faber didn't play more than his 7 minutes only because of foul trouble. Tony Freeland said that the effort level and pace means that the maximum a player can typically got at a time is about 9 minutes, and that the TV timeouts help, but he and Mike Stovall agreed that they enjoy playing the system. For his part, Purnell wants everyone to continue playing with that all-out style.
"We have to be a team that keeps the motor running at a high level," Purnell said. "I saw a lot of that tonight and as a result we got a pretty solid win."
The defense though isn't perfect because DePaul still needs to close out possessions better. Purnell wasn't happy that his team was out rebounded 42-37 in the game. He called it "the most disappointing thing," in the victory. Chicago State had 16 offensive rebounds, a 36 percent offensive rebound rate. DePaul grabbed 9 offensive rebounds, a 34 percent offensive rebound rate. So the disparity wasn't quite what the final margin might suggest. That said, allowing Chicago State, especially when Carl Montgomery was limited to 14 minutes, could be a sign of problems down the road.
"We're pretty good at pressuring right now, but we're not a good gang rebounding team, so we have a ways to go in that area," Purnell said.
DePaul's next challenge is Western Carolina on Tuesday at Allstate Arena. It will be a step up from the competition the Blue Demons faced on Sunday. While DePaul will be favored, the Catamounts did beat Big East Conference member Louisville last season. Purnell knows Western Carolina well, as he faced them as the head coach of Clemson last season and came away with a 79-57 victory. He also knows what he has to focus on the next two days.
"Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding," Purnell said. "That finishes your defense. If you do all this stuff and the shot goes up and they get the rebound then you know it can be all for naught and it can be very frustrating. So we have to be a better gang rebounding team."
The team started to gang rebounded against Chicago State. Jimmy Drew led the team with 8 boards, Moses Morgan and Cleveland Melvin both had 5, Freeland had 4, and Jeremiah Kelly, Devin Hill added 3.
"We just have to attack the defensive rebounds," Stovall, who grabbed two boards from his guard position, said. "We have to block out and just get aggressive down there and don't run out or start leaking out for the outlet passes. As a team, as a whole, as one we have to go and rebound."
I'll be tracking offensive rebound percentages very closely this season with DePaul as it seems like the stat will play a big role in this team's success. It's worth noting that last season the Blue Demons grabbed just 30.5 percent of their misses and allowed opponents to grab 36.8 percent of their misses. Both of those marks were among the worst in the country and came with the since departed Mac Koshwal grabbing a large number of those caroms. So this could definitely become an issue down the road.