GAME NOTES: The DePaul Blue Demons continue a five-game homestand on Thursday evening, as they play host to the Florida Atlantic Owls at Allstate Arena.
Oliver Purnell's Blue Demons are a modest 4-4 on the season, but a closer look at the opposition reveals a schedule that was daunting early on. The four teams that DePaul has lost to this year are a combined 33-4. One of those teams was Arizona State, which DePaul played last time out. Despite getting the game at home, the Blue Demons were no match for the Sun Devils, dropping a lopsided decision, 78-56.
Mike Jarvis' Owls are sporting an ugly 3-6 record, but after a very slow start, Florida Atlantic may be showing signs of improvement. The team enters this contest behind back-to-back wins over UCF (75-64) and Jacksonville (83-63). The win over the Dolphins was significant for Jarvis, who became the school's all-time winningest coach.
This is just the second time these two teams have met on the hardwood. The first meeting resulted in a 71-62 win for DePaul in 2010.
The Owls jumped all over Jacksonville early on and took an 16-point lead into halftime. FAU kept the pressure on, shooting 61.5 percent from the floor after the break to keep the Dolphins at arm's length and earn the 20-point victory. Pablo Bertone was instrumental in the win, pouring in a game-high 20 points. Kelvin Penn added 15 points, while Jackson Trapp and D'Andre Johnson finished with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
That kind of offensive production and efficiency has not been the norm in Boca Raton this season. The Owls are shooting a modest .424 from the floor overall, leading to just 69.2 ppg. The problem is that opponents are netting 72.7 ppg for a unflattering -3.4 scoring margin. Bertone is the team's top option offensively. Despite shooting just over 40 percent from the floor (.407), the 6-foot-2 junior is averaging a hefty 18.9 ppg. Trapp is a distant second in the scoring column at 10.6 ppg, but there are no significant contributors in terms of scoring after that, with Dragan Sekelja and Justin Raffington tied for third on the team at just 7.9 ppg.
The Blue Demons struggled to keep pace with the Sun Devils last time out, as ASU shot an impressive .509 from the floor, while DePaul hit on an ugly .292 overall, including an anemic 2-of-17 from behind the arc (.118). DePaul's offensive woes were magnified by the absence of potent scorer Brandon Young, who missed his first game of his DePaul career with an ankle injury. Billy Garrett Jr. led the way instead with 14 points. Tommy Hamilton IV added 12 points, while Durrell McDonald finished with 11. Veteran leader Cleveland Melvin couldn't find a rhythm, going 2-of-12 from the floor, managing just seven points in the loss.
DePaul has had more success offensively than FAU, at 75.6 ppg, but has also struggled to contain the opposition, allowing 75.3 ppg. Without Young in the lineup and Melvin struggling, those offensive numbers will wither. Young currently leads the team in scoring at 16.3 ppg. However, he is listed as questionable for this contest. Melvin is now a close second in the scoring column at 16.1 ppg, leads the team with an impressive .533 efficiency from behind the arc, and is also tops in terms of rebounding (6.3 rpg). Hamilton is also in double-figure scoring at 11.3 ppg. If Young is unable to return to the lineup for this game, Garrett (9.3 ppg) will once again have to take on a bigger role at the offensive end.
Young is obviously an important piece to the DePaul puzzle. If he is able to suit up, the Blue Demons should be able to roll to victory. Without him, things will be a little tougher, although a win is still likely against the Owls, who have had problems on the road.
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