DePaul vs. Providence Game Preview

The Blue Demons take on the Providence Friars on Saturday afternoon in a game that may decided last place in the Big East conference.

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DePaul Blue Demons vs. Providence Friars – Saturday, February 25th, 1 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

Television – Big East Network – WCUU – The U Too in Chicago

Radio – WSCR AM 670

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Game Preview

GETTING INSIDE THE BLUE DEMONS

Blue Demons are getting closer

DePaul has lost 12 of its last 13 games heading into Saturday's home game against Providence -- a battle that pits the teams that share last place in the Big East.

While the league's basement is a place the Blue Demons know all too well (they have finished there the last three years), those who haven't seen the team play this year need to know it's not fair to say this is the same old DePaul.

Last Saturday, the Blue Demons led nationally ranked Louisville by 17 points before falling in overtime. On Monday, the Blue Demons suffered a 79-72 loss at St. John's, but the game was there for the taking in the final minute. DePaul, a team that relies heavily on sophomores and freshmen, needs to learn how to operate at winning time or its record isn't going to reflect its improvement.

For example, DePaul trailed just 74-72 as the clock moved into the final minute. St. John's had the ball almost at half court with just six seconds left on the shot clock, but freshman guard Charles McKinney fouled the Red Storm's best free-throw shooter while playing too aggressively for the game situation. Ironically, the Blue Demons' defensive problems for most of the second half had been their relatively lax defense when the Red Storm attacked the basket.

"We just made some critical errors at the end," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "We've got a kid trapped in a corner and we foul him. That's just young mistakes. That's a part of learning to win. In a critical situation, with the shot clock running down, you can't put them on the line."

DePaul might feel good about getting Providence (13-15, 2-13) at home on Saturday considering the Friars are 0-7 on the Big East road this season, but the Blue Demons shouldn't start counting wins before they happen. Providence lost by two at Villanova, three at USF and nine at Georgetown. During nonconference action, the Friars won big at Rhode Island and South Carolina.

Providence relies heavily on guards Vincent Council (16.5 ppg, 7.2 apg) and Bryce Cotton (14.3 ppg, 66 3-pointers) as both average 38.5 minutes per game. Considering the Blue Demons rotate four guards, they should have a chance to wear them down. Of course, there's always a chance Providence freshman LaDontae Henton (13.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg) could enjoy a field day working against DePaul's weak interior defense. Henton has the ability to shoot long-distance as well as take it to the hoop, which makes him a tough matchup for the Demons.

McKinney, who's 6 feet 3 but has a 6-9 wingspan, sounds like the best defender for Henton. That might depend on how much he learns between Monday's loss and Saturday's game.

GETTING INSIDE THE FRIARS

Support remains strong despite Friars' struggles

One of the reasons for making a coaching change after last season for the Friars was that the fans had lost faith in Keno Davis. A selling point for bringing in Ed Cooley is that the Providence native would bring some enthusiasm to the program, given his outgoing personality and his success at Fairfield.

That has become apparent this season in its continued support for the Friars despite the team's struggles. A team that entered the day 2-12 still drew a near-capacity crowd for last Saturday's loss to Georgetown.

With only three games left in the regular season, and a week off between games, Cooley is preparing his squad for the stretch run. Though a postseason berth is extremely unlikely given his team's 13-15 record, he's looking to finish strong to build some momentum heading into the offseason.

Rather than push his team in this last week off, however, Cooley says he'll take it easier on his team. Focus, rather than repetition, is what he's looking for.

The stakes, such as they are, will be high when the team takes the court again. Providence takes on DePaul on Feb. 25, the team that it is tied with at the bottom of the standings. The winner stands a good chance at earning bragging rights for not coming in last in the Big East.

Following that is the final home game of the year, a Feb. 28 game against Connecticut. Based on what we've seen this season, even if the Friars fall to the Blue Demons, they still should get a solid send-off from the home fans against the regional rival Huskies.

NOTES, QUOTES

Points tough to muster against stiff competition

--With Gerard Coleman on the sidelines, the Friars had an impossible time scoring points in transition against the Hoyas. It managed just eight fast-break points in defeat.

--Providence had a miserable day shooting the basketball against Georgetown, going 14-of-54 from the field. The only player to make more than half of his shots was Ron Giplaye, who went 3-of-4 on his way to a six-point, seven-rebound night. Georgetown is the top team in the Big East at defending the 3, and the Hoyas did nothing to hurt those numbers in forcing the Friars to go 4-of-21 from beyond the arc.

--The support from the home fans has been especially impressive for Providence, considering the team hasn't given them much offense to cheer about. Georgetown became the second team in a row to hold the Friars to fewer than 60 points during a 63-53 victory last weekend. South Florida held Providence to 48 in the previous home game on Feb. 11.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- The number of points Providence scored on shots from the field in the first half. The Friars went 4-of-28 from the floor and were only within 11 at the break because they went 11-of-16 from the free-throw line.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm going to give them (Sunday and Monday) off, and then we're going to practice only one hour a day. As we get to the end of the year, we need to make sure we're sharp so long practices aren't in play. We just need to get in and get out and make sure we do a good job." -- Providence coach Ed Cooley told the Pawtucket Times after the loss to Georgetown.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--at DePaul, Feb. 25

KEY MATCHUPS: This will be for the much coveted No. 15 seed in the Big East tournament, and by "much coveted," it means "at least we're not the No. 16 seed." DePaul's not a very good team, but Cleveland Melvin is a solid young forward who can score. Working on the glass will be key, as DePaul is a miserable rebounding team, and that has been a comparative strength for the Friars this season.

These two teams have not yet met this season, and this figures to be a game where at least one side scores 100 points. The DePaul offense is third in the conference at 74.1 points a game, and while Providence isn't among the scoring leaders, it likes to play fast and is facing in DePaul a team that gives up 76.7 points a game, by far the most in the conference. The Friars rank 13th in the league in defense. Providence PG Vincent Council figures to have his way. He is the top combo guard in the Big East, ranking ninth in scoring at 16.5 points a game while leading the conference in assists with 7.2 per game. PLAYER NOTES

--Gerard Coleman was on the sidelines for the Georgetown game because of the flu.

--Chris Carter got into the game in the final minute against Georgetown, pulling down a rebound. It was his first action in more than a month since he played two minutes against Syracuse on Jan. 14.

--Bryce Cotton went 3-of-13 from the floor against Georgetown, continuing his trend of being focused on the perimeter. Some 160 of his 286 shots this season (56 percent) have been from 3-point range, and over the past six games, 55 of his 72 attempts (76.3 percent) have been from beyond the arc.

The Last Time

On February 17, 2011 at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, the Blue Demons won their only Big East conference game of the 2010-11 season by defeating Providence 79-76. DePaul broke a 25 game Big East winless streak with the win.

The Backcourt of Jeremiah Kelly and Brandon Young combined for 40 points. Kelly finished with a career high of 23 points, while Young chipped in with 17. Freshman Cleveland Melvin added 20 points.

Vincent Council scored 12 points for the Friars. Duke Mondy finished with 17 points, seven rebounds, and four steals.

Notes:

Per Purnell, Moses Morgan, who was sidelined with a concussion, is expected to be available for Saturday's game.

Providence Roster

NO NAME Yr Ht Wt Position Hometown/High School

51 Ted Bancroft SO 6-4 187 Guard Marion, Mass./Bishop Stang High School '10

10 Kadeem Batts SO 6-9 250 Forward Powder Springs, Ga./John McEachern '09

41 Chris Carter GS 6-4 180 Guard Worcester, Mass./Shepherd Hill Regional '07

1 Gerard Coleman SO 6-4 180 Guard Boston, Mass./Tilton School '10

11 Bryce Cotton SO 6-1 165 Guard Tucson, Ariz./Palo Verde High School '10

32 Vincent Council JR 6-2 180 Guard Brooklyn, N.Y./Patterson School '09

42 Bilal Dixon JR 6-9 245 Forward/Center Jersey City, N.J./Queen of Peace '08

33 Kiwi Gardner FR 5-10 165 Guard Oakland, Calif./Westwind Prep '11

34 Ron Giplaye SO 6-6 230 Forward Lowell, Mass./Notre Dame Prep '10

21 Lee Goldsbrough SO 6-9 220 Forward Newcastle, England/Loreto Sixth Form College '10

35 Maurice Grant FR 6-3 195 Guard Saddle River, N.J./Bergen Catholic

23 LaDontae Henton FR 6-6 220 Forward Lansing, Mich./Eastern High School '11

13 Brice Kofane FR 6-8 205 Forward Yaounde, Cameroon/The Miller School '10

53 Mike Murray SO 6-2 188 Guard Troy, N.Y./LaSalle Institute '10


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