DePaul basketball earns opening round win

depaul basketball

Going into the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament, hardly anyone expected 11th-seeded DePaul basketball to win a game, but on Wednesday night, the Blue Demons defeated the Providence Friars 70-62 to move on to the quarterfinals.

In the regular season, DePaul was swept by the Friars, though one game went to double overtime to be decided.

On Wednesday night, thanks to standout performances from DePaul’s top shooters Javon Freeman-Liberty and Charlie Moore as well as one of the Demons’ best defensive nights of the year, they put on a show to upset the sixth-seeded Friars and to win their opening round game for the second straight year.

The Demons got off to a bit of a slow start, kicking off the game with a short two-minute scoring drought after scoring the first five points of the night. After an 10-0 run for DePaul, the Blue Demons led 17-8, its largest lead of the game.

As the first half was winding down, Providence took its first lead of the game 23-22. At the break, the Friars led 36-35.

Freeman-Liberty scored five straight points to give the Blue Demons a 43-37 lead, but Providence was able to capitalize on DePaul’s turnovers and get the game to a tie at 51. Still tied at 53, the game seemed be turning into a tossup, but Freeman-Liberty scored four straight points and kickstarted a 17-9 run for the Demons to the finish.

With just under two minutes to play, the Demons led 66-57 and held the Friars to just two of their final 13 field goal attempts. The Blue Demons easily closed out the victory to secure their spot in the quarterfinals.

Moore and Freeman-Liberty led the charge for the Demons all night. Together, as Wednesday night’s players of the game, the two combined for 42 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.

“We just wanted to be aggressive today, push the pace, get in the paint, draw defenders to kick out for open teammates,” Moore said. “We followed our game plan there tonight and it worked for us.”

This was Freeman-Liberty’s first game back after missing the last few weeks while he was in concussion protocol.

“It was a big boost getting Javon back,” Moore said. “He’s a great player. We play well off of each other as well. And it just felt great out there. I felt like we were all staying aggressive, and we did a great job on defensive end.”

DePaul coach Dave Leitao praised his backcourt duo.

“Both Charlie and Javon played well and made plays throughout the game, and especially in the later stages of the gave to give us the opportunity to get the lead and hold onto the lead,” Leitao said. “[I’m] very happy for the whole group and advancing to play another day.”

The Blue Demons advanced to the quarterfinals to face the UConn Huskies on Thursday, March 11 at Madison Square Garden. During the regular season, the Huskies swept the Demons, including a 20-point blowout win in late December. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET and will be aired on FS1.

Photo by Eric Henry | The DePaulia