DePaul basketball season ends in blowout loss

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The DePaul basketball season came to an end Thursday night as the 11th-seeded Demons lost their quarterfinal matchup to the third-seeded UConn Huskies 94-60. The Blue Demons finished this season last in the Big East with a conference record of 2-13 and an overall record of 5-14.

Coming off an unexpected win against the Providence Friars on Wednesday night, DePaul lost its competitive edge and defensive power against the Huskies.

Charlie Moore and Javon Freeman-Liberty lit up the scoreboard Wednesday night, but that offensive flash was nowhere to be found. Moore scored 21 points against Providence but was held to just eight points on 3-for-9 shooting.

Freeman-Liberty kept up his offensive efforts for the most part, adding 19 points for the Blue Demons, but DePaul’s next highest scorer was Ray Salnave, adding only 10 more points. In addition to those 19 points, Freeman-Liberty as Thursday’s player of the game added four rebounds, an assist and a steal in just over 28 minutes.

From the start, UConn controlled the tempo. The Huskies jumped out to an early 15-7 lead, including an 8-0 run from star player James Bouknight. With just under six minutes to play, the Huskies went on a 16-2 scoring run leading into the break. At the half, the Huskies had a commanding 45-22 lead, and it only got worse for the Blue Demons.

About midway through the second half, another scoring run for the Huskies put UConn up 75-41. Putting up their largest lead of the night with under a minute to play, UConn made it a 94-55 game just before DePaul freshman guard Kobe Elvis added the final five points for DePaul this season.

A big inconsistency from the Demons’ win over Providence to their blowout loss against UConn was that decline in defense, particularly in rebounds.

On Wednesday night, DePaul brought down 46 rebounds, a program high in the conference tournament, to the Friars’ 35. On Thursday, those roles reversed. UConn brought down 53 rebounds to DePaul’s 32.

DePaul coach Dave Leitao spoke on the importance of rebounding: “The one thing that we said first was rebounding and how to carry it over from last night [to] tonight. But you can’t go through box out drills, you can’t go through physicality. You just have to make sure that [you] understand how important it is.”

The 2020-21 season started poorly for the Demons, as they dealt with three different COVID related pauses, forcing the cancellation or postponement of their first 10 games. There was also never a time where all 12 scholarship players were healthy for a full team practice.

“All the things that you need - other than the obvious, which is talent, skill, all of those things which hopefully you have enough of - those other things that provide you with opportunities to grow: chemistry, resiliency, knowing each other inside and out and the things that you do as a team that we couldn’t [do] either,” Leitao said.

Leitao is in his sixth year of his second stint with the Blue Demons. Of the past six seasons, DePaul has finished in last place for five consecutive years. Leitao’s record from his second stint sits at 66-112 overall and 21-84 in the Big East.

Photo by Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia