DePaul Blue Demons vs. Mississippi Rebels – Thursday, December 1st, 8:00 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois
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After playing two games at the friendly confines of McGrath-Phillips Arena and three games on a neutral court in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, the Blue Demons arrive at Allstate Arena on Thursday night to open their 32nd season in Rosemont.
DePaul (4-1) welcomes in Ole Miss (5-1) as part of the inaugural Big East-SEC Challenge.
The Blue Demons are off to a good start and are coming off a 2-1 performance against high-major teams in the Old Spice Classic, but there is no need to fear DePaul looking past their next opponent.
"All you have to do is look at Ole Miss on tape and I think that will take care of any thought of overlooking them," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "This is a physical, tough basketball team. It is a veteran team out of an excellent league. It's going to be a big challenge for us. Certainly they will be favored coming in here. We've got to gear it up to protect our home court. "
The Blue Demons picked up wins over Arizona State and Texas Tech while in Florida, but are still a work in progress.
"It's really clear that we need to work on defense and rebounding," said Purnell. "It's showed up in about every game that we're not doing a good enough job in that area. That's what happens when you play big, physical teams and you're not a big, physical team, and you don't block out, then you struggle there. We have to do a better job of blocking out and everybody understanding. including our guards. that they have rebounding responsibilities."
The Blue Demons are currently being outworked on the glass by opponents at an average of 6.8 rebounds per game.
"We have to be a gang rebounding team," Purnell added. "That's part of our style and system. The ball is all over the place. Teams are scrambling all over the place. When the ball goes up you can be anywhere. So we've got to all converge at the basket, block guys out and come up with the ball."
Purnell is drilling that gang rebounding mentality into his players' heads.
"Mississippi goes after the offensive rebounds," said sophomore guard Brandon Young. "Everybody including myself has to box out and go in there and gang rebound as a team. Coach is preaching that all the time, in the morning, in the evening, all the time. I just know it's going to be a battle tomorrow."
Gang rebounding will be even more important for DePaul given that Miami transfer Donnavan Kirk is out with a back injury right now.
"Donnavan right now is out," said Purnell. "He couldn't play in the second half. He really couldn't play in the final game (of the Old Spice Classic) because of back pain and soreness. He's being examined right now. For right now, he's out. He was out of practice yesterday. We're not anticipating that he'll be ready to go on Thursday until we get further confirmation from the doctor. Yesterday he got a MRI and that's being read right now. So we'll get more information on him. I don't anticipate he'll be ready on Thursday."
It's not clear whether this is a new injury or an old one flaring up on Kirk.
"We're not really sure," Purnell explained. "He had some back issues. He was rehabbing and coming along. When we got down to Florida his back really started to bother him just prior to the first game. It just got worse every day to the point where he couldn't play."
The Big East-SEC Challenge matches all 12 SEC teams against Big East counterparts in early December. It will be an ESPN made-for-TV staple going forward. While at Clemson, Purnell participated in a similar event between the ACC and Big East.
"I like them," Purnell said of the Challenge. "I enjoyed it when we were at Clemson. I got excited about them. I think our players did. Our fans got excited about them. It's a good event for the beginning of the season. When you have those challenges between conferences that says college basketball has started and traditionally we have those matchups. I think it's great for the tradition of college basketball."
NO NAME POS HT/WT YR-EXP HOMETOWN (Last School)
12 Maurice Aniefiok Guard 6-5/205 FR-HS Lagos, Nigeria (Ikeja HS/Huntington [W. Va.] Prep)
23 Reginald Buckner Forward 6-9/225 JR-2L Memphis, Tenn. (Manassas HS)
4 Demarco Cox Center 6-8/276 SO-1L Yazoo City, Miss. (Yazoo City HS)
1 Terrance Henry Forward 6-9/210 SR-3L Monroe, La. (Carroll HS)
31 Murphy Holloway Forward 6-7/240 JR-2L Irmo, S.C. (South Carolina)
13 Dale Hughes Guard 6-2/197 JR-RS Columbus, Miss. (Florida A&M)
34 Aaron Jones Forward 6-8/218 FR-HS Pascagoula, Miss. (Gautier HS)
3 Jamal Jones Guard 6-8/185 FR-HS Searcy, Ark. (Searcy HS)
45 Jelan Kendrick Guard 6-7/210 FR-RS Atlanta, Ga. (Memphis)
5 Dundrecous Nelson Guard 5-11/195 SO-1L Jackson, Miss. (Murrah HS)
24 Will Norman Guard 6-5/206 FR-RS Lafayette, La. (St. Thomas More HS)
15 Steadman Short Forward 6-9/230 SR-1L Simpsonville, S.C. (Chipola College)
22 Brock Shorter Forward 6-7/216 JR-RS Coldwater, Miss. (Coldwater HS)
32 Jarvis Summers Guard 6-4/184 FR-HS Jackson, Miss. (Provine HS)
10 Ladarius White Guard 6-6/208 FR-HS McComb, Miss. (McComb HS)
20 Nick Williams Guard 6-4/210 JR-1L Mobile, Ala. (Indiana)
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