CHICAGO – The last two months have been nothing but encouraging for a program that’s been on the outside looking in at the NCAA Tournament for the last decade-and-a-half.
DePaul started the season with nine-straight victories, including a memorable triumph over national runner-up Texas Tech at Wintrust Arena on December 4th. A win over Northwestern completed their non-conference slate as the Blue Demons headed to Big East play sporting a 12-1 overall record with real hopes that a strong conference season could earn a trip to the “Big Dance.”
Yet getting that good start in the conference has been a bit difficult for Dave Leitao’s team over the past week, as two Big East foes have come into Wintrust Arena and left with victories.
Saturday’s was the most painful against Providence, considering the way DePaul rallied to tie the game and how they’d end up losing it at the finish.
With the game tied, Paul Reed was whistled for a foul on Nate Watson with just .4 left on the clock as the Friars’ forward tried pushing a shot attempt up towards the hoop. He’d hit the second of his two free throws to seal the Blue Demons’ 66-65 loss in front of the home crowd on Saturday afternoon. All of this came after the DePaul erased a six-point lead in the final 1:21 of the game, with three points coming from Jalen Coleman-Lands after he drew the foul on an attempt outside the arc.
Yet it wasn’t for not as the hosts were saddled with their second-straight loss in the Big East, with this one coming on the heels of a defeat to Seton Hall at Wintrust Arena on Monday night. In that game, DePaul held a six-point lead at the half only to be outscored 49-29 in the final 20 minutes in a 74-66 loss.
The good news for the Blue Demons is that they’ve got plenty of time to get things righted in the conference, with 16 games remaining on the schedule. They’ll have to think about these two defeats for a week before facing St. John’s on the road next Saturday, with games against No. 10 Villanova and No. 11 Butler awaiting after that.
Perhaps some of the good fortune from the non-conference season can return to push this DePaul campaign into mid-to-late March.