DePaul's game against Connecticut was a classic case of a team that was overmatched in terms of talent at almost every position. But where the talent gap became even more apparent was on the bench. And while everyone will talk about the excellent play of Kemba Walker, who scored 31 points, it was in the front court where the Huskies were able to dominate the game.
Connecticut's envious depth
While Oliver Purnell did his best to rotate his three big men in Krys Faber, Cleveland Melvin and Tony Freeland, eventually it wasn't enough. All three got tired and when Melvin and Faber both went to the bench, due to foul trouble and needing rest, the Huskies made their move as Jimmy Drew was forced to slide to forward.
"Those guys are pretty big," Drew said. "They were taking us out of some of the stuff that we wanted to do. So I think that we went to a different kind of strategy, but give them credit for taking us out of our stuff."
That's because even though Connecticut suffered from inconsistent front court play and some foul trouble of their own in the first half, Jim Calhoun was able to send waves of players out into the paint. It started from beginning as DePaul put out three guards along with Faber and Melvin, Calhoun put out a more traditional lineup with Alex Oriakhi at center and Tyler Olander and Roscoe Smith at forward. It continued throughout the game as the Huskies went to Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Niels Giffey and Charles Okwandu.
In the second half the Huskies were able to avoid the foul trouble that plagued them and dominate in the paint as they held DePaul to 11-39 (28.2 percent) shooting and 28 points in the second half. No Connecticut front court player finished with more than 24 minutes of playing time and no more than three fouls.
That type of depth is enviable, and the fact that all of the players contributed is a testament to the ability of Calhoun to use his pieces well. While Oriakhi had 11 points, five boards and three blocks, Smith had eight points and seven boards and three blocks and Coombs-McDaniel scored seven points and grabbed three boards.
Someday Purnell will have that depth to put out onto the court. Next season Faber, Melvin and Freeland should still be around and they'll be complemented by Purnell's recruiting class. Miami transfer Donnavan Kirk, Derrell Robertson and Jamie Crockett should help provide some support. Instead of trying to shuffle five guys, and being held hostage by foul trouble to a player like Faber, Purnell will have the ability to find the hot hand and make sure his most productive players on the court.
At that time DePaul will have the opportunity to make some noise in the Big East. The future is coming. It's just going to take a little while to get here, but when it does no one is going to want to play the Blue Demons.