DePaul Blue Demons vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys – Thursday, November 25th, 3:30 p.m. Central – Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA
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For Thanksgiving, the Blue Demons travel to Anaheim, California for some neutral court play in the competitive 76 Classic.
DePaul (1-1) faces their first BCS opponent of the season in the Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0) on Thanksgiving Day.
The Blue Demons are coming off a 69-64 upset loss at the hands of Western Carolina last week. DePaul has had nine days off since then to finish up final exams and prepare for the trip to California.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell, who coached in the 76 Classic last season at Clemson, has been getting his team focused on three goals heading into this west coast journey.
"We are looking forward to having final exams over and also to the 76 Classic," said Purnell. "I tried to describe the tournament to the guys, because I competed in it last year. It's a great tournament, one of the best in the country and we're very fortunate to be in it. We talked about taking the approach that we've got three goals for the tournament."
"First of all to win as many games as we possibly can win starting with Oklahoma State on Thanksgiving," said Purnell. "Then we want to improve in couple of different areas. First of all with our defensive rebounding, we've been emphasizing blocking out for the last three or four days. So that improves your defense. Offensively, we want to stay with our offensive philosophy no matter what happens out there. I thought we broke down in that area versus Western Carolina during different periods of the game. It hurts, we got back to it, but it put us in an uphill situation that we possibly didn't have to be in."
"Thirdly, to really appreciate this great tournament and to understand how fortunate we are and to use it to come closer together as a team," said Oliver. "That's the way we framed the tournament for our team and we'll continue to talk about that as we travel and as we practice out there going into the game on Thursday."
This trip marks the return of three Blue Demons to the west coast. Sophomore Tony Freeland and Junior Krys Faber both hail from Southern California, while freshman Moses Morgan comes from nearby Las Vegas, Nevada. They all are looking forward to the opportunity to be home for the holiday. For Freeland, it's his first trip back to Southern California, while Faber played against UCLA in Anaheim as a freshman.
"I'm beyond excited," said Faber. "I'm a little nervous just because of the pressure that comes with playing in front of family and friends and just knowing everything that they expect of you. It's going be nice to put on a show and show people I've improved since. It will be nice to play some tougher competition. We're looking forward to play Oklahoma State. I'm excited."
"I can't wait to get back home and see my family and enjoy some Thanksgiving food," Freeland said. "I just want to win. I want to play hard and improve every game as far as the team is concerned because nobody thinks we're going to win. So we want to upset a lot of teams and come out victorious."
Freeland is expecting about 25 to 30 friends and family to come out to Anaheim to see him play.
The Blue Demons will play games on Thursday and Friday and then have a day off before the tournament's final round on Sunday. During the day off, all of the teams will attend a sponsored event at nearby Disneyland.
"We're going to Disneyland and chill," said Freeland. "Hopefully, after that I can go to my grandma's and see her and come back ready to work."
Faber and Freeland are both keys to DePaul's success this season.
"Both of them have been a physical presence for us," Purnell said. "I'm thinking back on the last game. Krys was a real factor in there with his size and physicality. Tony, after he settled down, was the same way. Krys didn't play a lot against Chicago State because he was in foul trouble, but Tony played very well."
While Oklahoma State is 3-0, they are a team that hasn't been truly tested yet. The Cowboys struggled in their second game of the season, a 68-58 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and then dominated Nicholls State on Sunday in a 76-56 rout.
Oklahoma State boasts a strong frontcourt anchored by 6-8 forward Darrell Williams, who came to Oklahoma State from Chicago Dunbar by way of Midland, Texas junior college, and 6-7 forward Marshall Moses.
In Sunday's outing against Nicholls State, Darrell Williams contributed with a double-double for the Cowboys with 11 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Moses chipped in with 16 points and six rebounds of his own.
"Just watching them on tape, they're a very athletic, long team," said Purnell. "Unfortunately they go extremely well to the offensive glass. I think they're a team that's got a chance to be really, really good."
Purnell said "unfortunately", because he knows that battling on the boards has been a weakness for his team in the early part of this season.
"We're really weak in the area of blocking out and gang rebounding," said Purnell. "That's a habit that we have to establish. That's a habit that we don't have right now."
Freeland also identified that as a key to the game.
"We have to keep them off the offensive boards," said Tony. "We have to box out and gang rebound. Coach stresses that after every game."
The winner of this game will take on the winner of Thursday's Virginia Tech/Cal. State Northridge game on Friday.
Purnell often refers to scoring off of an opponent's turnover as "feasting". So, the question is, will it be feast or famine for the Blue Demons on Thanksgiving Day?
Oklahoma State Roster
## NAME POS HT WT CLASS Hometown/High School/Last School
42 Songo Adoki F 6-5 205 SR Oklahoma City, Okla./Putnam City High School
22 Markel Brown G 6-3 190 FR Alexandria, La./Peabody Magnet High School
20 Mike Cobbins F 6-8 205 FR Amarillo, Texas/Palo Duro High School
5 Reger Dowell G 6-1 180 SO Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville High School
32 Roger Franklin F 6-5 215 SO Duncanville, Texas/Duncanville High School
21 Fred Gulley G 6-2 175 SO Fayetteville, Ark./Fayetteville High School
33 Marshall Moses F 6-7 255 SR Aiken, S.C./The Patterson School [N.C.]
0 Jéan-Paul Olukemi G/F 6-5 215 SO LaHabra, Calif./Stoneridge Prep/Vincennes University
12 Keiton Page G 5-9 160 JR Pawnee, Okla./Pawnee High School
14 Ray Penn G 5-9 165 SO Houston, Texas/Fort Bend Travis High School
31 Matt Pilgrim F 6-8 255 SR Cincinnati, Ohio/Bridgton Academy/Hampton
1 Jarred Shaw F/C 6-10 235 SO Dallas, Texas/Carter High School
15 Nick Sidorakis G 6-4 195 SR Jenks, Okla./Jenks High School
24 Zathan Simpson G 5-11 175 FR McAlester, Okla./McAlester High School
4 Brian Williams G 6-5 205 FR Baton Rouge, La./Glen Oaks High School
25 Darrell Williams F 6-8 255 JR Chicago, Ill./Dunbar Technical High School/Midland College
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