Well, guess what happened to DePaul on Tuesday night? The Western Carolina Catamounts came to Allstate Arena and escaped with a 69-64 victory. If you analyze the box score two things stand out - offensive rebounding and free throw percentage, which I know are two things that Purnell apparently addressed immediately following the game.
"Obviously, we're disappointed in our first loss of the season," said Purnell according to the school's post-game report
. "An area that has plagued us is defensive rebounding. We gave them too many second opportunities and struggled early from the free-throw line."
That's exactly correct, but just how big of a deal was that defensive rebounding? Glad you asked.
In Dean Oliver's Basketball on Paper he talked about the "four factors" for winning a basketball game - limiting turnovers, rebounding the basketball, shooting well and getting to the free throw line. (You can read more about it here
.) Typically a team that excels in those four things is going to win more basketball games than it loses. That's also the foundation of a lot of analysis that I do on this site.
Purnell has brought to DePaul a system that forces a lot of turnovers on defense and creates free throw opportunities on offense with its aggressive style of play. That was evident again last night as the Blue Demons dominated the turnovers category turning the ball over only 12 times compared to 17 times for the Catamounts. DePaul also went to the free throw line at a much higher rate attempting 32 free throws compared to 21 for Western Carolina. Unfortunately, even though the Blue Demons were +11 in free throw attempts, they finished just +6 in free throw points because they only shot 62.5 percent from the line.
A third factor, shooting, was essentially a wash. Both teams had a very low effective field goal percentage.
But oh that fourth factor. Western Carolina grabbed a full 42.5 percent of its misses on Tuesday night and that was the problem for the Blue Demons. Even though DePaul forced five more turnovers the Catamounts had 10 more offensive rebounds. Those rebounds gave Western Carolina five extra opportunities to put the ball in the basket, and that's exactly what happened.
The Blue Demons ended up on the wrong side of a close game that they actually handled statistically fairly well because of one thing. Sure it would've been nice to have some extra points from the free throw line, but this game came down to rebounding. Someone besides Tony Freeland is going to have start grabbing them sooner rather than later or the Blue Demons could be in for a lot of trouble.