Let's get this out of the way right now - the sky is not falling, the world is not over. The sun will rise tomorrow and Oliver Purnell's DePaul Blue Demons will go back to practice and try to fix whatever went wrong during a 70-68 loss to Division II Lewis University.
This isn't unprecedented. UIC lost to Lewis last season 65-55 and later upset Oregon State. DePaul's season isn't over, in fact it hasn't even begun yet, and the Blue Demons' record is still 0-0. Still, some frustrating habits from the Jerry Wainwright era surfaced on Sunday, and those will need to be cleaned up before DePaul can start consistently beating good opponents.
"I thought we got away from doing some things that we like to do, just as we did versus Northwood, but you're playing a better team. So you have to play DePaul basketball for 35 or 40 minutes and we didn't do that," Purnell said afterwards.
With that said, here are three things I took away from the game.
1. Whether its because of youth or from playing losing basketball too long the bad habits have to go away. - Hopefully this is the last game where DePaul shoots under 60 percent from the free throw line. Of course, last season the Blue Demons shot 58.2 percent, worst in the country. Tonight they shot 57.7 percent. Purnell said that his staff has tracked every free throw the team has taken during practice and the team has hit 74 percent. They need to get closer to that number.
Along those same lines, the team needs to make more layups. The Blue Demons shot 50 percent (5-10) on layups during the second half. That number should be nearly 100 percent. The biggest offender was Devin Hill, who missed two, but Cleveland Melvin shot 2-8 from the field and missed two layups as well - one in each half.
2. There are a lot of freshman on this team. - Melvin, Brandon Young and Moses Morgan are all going to play a big role this season. There are going to be nights like Sunday when all of them struggle, and then someone else is going to have to bail them out. That didn't happen against Lewis. Melvin looked lost at times on the court, though he did use his athleticism to get four steals. Young struggled with his ball-handling and committed six of DePaul's 17 turnovers and Morgan's shooting woes continued as he went 1-6 from the field.
"They're an experienced team, and I think it showed and I think our inexperience showed," Purnell said. "They're an experienced team and they knew what they wanted to do and they did it very, very well."
Here's the total stat line for the DePaul freshman: 7-21, 0-5 from three, 4-10 from the line, 9 boards, 18 points, 3 assists, 6 turnovers, 1 block and 10 steals in 54 minutes. One of the veterans needed to step up. I thought that Krys Faber and Jeremiah Kelly could've been a little more assertive on Saturday and helped the freshman pull through.
3. The press is great, but it doesn't solve everything. - DePaul generated 23 turnovers and 22 points off those turnovers. That ratio needs to be better in the future. Also, the Blue Demons gave Lewis 18 points off their own turnovers. Yes, DePaul was experimenting, but there were some baseball passes that got to places in the Blue Demons' trap that should've been picked off, but weren't due to a lack of awareness. It'll come.
Purnell noticed too. "There were times where the got into the lane and they got layups or a three-point play and that's inexcusable," he said.
DePaul needs to be better about recognizing when the press isn't working and still get back on defense. Lewis shot a ridiculous 16-23 (69.6 percent) from the field in the first half to build a 12-point lead. Some of those were tough shots, but a lot of them were wide-open looks. The Blue Demons have to be careful.
Also, if the traps do break down, DePaul needs to avoid fouling in the future. The fact that Lewis got into the bonus at the 12:40 mark in the second half, and shot 14-22 from the line, was one of the reasons the Flyers ended up winning the game.
- Mike Stovall went 4-12 and scored 13 points. He took too many hard shots.
- Tony Freeland would be an awesome small forward in this system. Right now he's playing power forward and making the most of it. He had 5 boards and 11 points on 3-7 shooting, but 5-7 shooting from the free throw line.
- It seems to me that Michael Bizoukas is out of place in this system. The game slows down too much when he's on the court. His stat line is a lot of zeros with 1 rebound, 1 assist and 2 turnovers.
Onto Sunday and our first all-Chicago showdown between DePaul and Chicago State at McGrath Arena.