DePaul basketball drops close game to No. 17 Creighton

DePaul basketball failed to close out the game against No. 17 Creighton on Saturday night, dropping the game 69-62. The game was largely a back-and-forth match for about 38 minutes when the Bluejays pulled off a late rally to put the game away.

The Blue Demons came out hot, scoring seven points within the first two minutes, but then quickly found themselves amid a scoring drought for the next seven minutes. Taking advantage of DePaul’s inconsistent offensive attempts, Creighton was able to through the Blue Demons off any rhythm they seemed to find. In 11 minutes, the Bluejays defense was able to force DePaul’s offense to miss 15 of 16 shots.

Still, the Demons battled back throughout the first half, holding Creighton, the Big East’s best three-point shooting team, to only two three-point shots in the half. DePaul caught a big break with six minutes left in the half as Creighton’s Denzel Mahoney got called for a flagrant one foul. Blue Demon Javon Freeman-Liberty scored both free throws to spark an 8-0 DePaul run.

Senior guard Ray Salnave played his best game of the season. As Saturday’s player of the game, Salnave put up a game-high 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting and was one of two Blue Demons to score in double figures. Additionally, he added five rebounds and four steals for DePaul while posting his first game in double figures as a Demon. As the first half was coming to a close, Salnave put the Blue Demons on his back as he scored DePaul’s final nine points. The two teams went into the break tied 29-29.

Salnave got the opportunity to start his fifth game of the season as senior guard Charlie Moore was ruled out of the game due to a right elbow injury.

“Tonight was a night where we needed everybody, as we do every game,” Salnave said. “When a man goes down, we’ve got to take advantage and opportunities present itself, and I feel I took advantage of this opportunity tonight.”

After the break, freshman guard Kobe Elvis held his own against the Bluejays, adding seven points in the first eight minutes of the second half. Soon, Creighton went on a 7-0 run, giving it a 54-50 lead that looked like it would put the game out of the Demons’ reach.

Again, Salnave scored five points to keep DePaul in it as the clock ticked down, and it seemed as though the Demons could reverse the common narrative of dropping close games.

This was not the case however.

The Bluejays closed out the game by going on a 10-2 run, grabbing their ninth Big East win, placing them at second in the conference.

“That’s something that we have to get better at,” coach Dave Leitao said. “Our late game execution and understanding how to get quality stops, especially in those under-four-minute games that you’ve got to win.”

The Blue Demons now hold a 3-7 overall record and a 1-7 record in the Big East. With Georgetown’s win over Providence on Saturday, DePaul now sits alone in last place. The Demons are back in action on Wednesday when the Xavier Musketeers come to town, concluding the three-game homestand. This game was rescheduled from Dec. 18 when it was postponed due to COVID-19 related issues.

Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. ET on FS1.

Photo by Eric Henry | The DePaulia