With 5:34 left, fans watched the 6-foot-6, 204-pounder assert himself offensively. After knocking down one-of-two at the free-throw line, Cain drilled consecutive three-pointers to cut the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 60-48. On the next possession, he barked at his teammates to set a screen and then attempted another one from long-range.
Although it fell short, that moment signified a new era in Rosemont, Ill. The Blue Demons’ star exhibited some much-needed assertion, transforming from a sound-scorer to a leader.
“I was trying to bring us back,” he said. “Chris (Harrison-Docks) kept finding me time after time, and I was just making shots.”
While Harrison-Docks only accumulated two dimes, the Big East should consider switching to the National Hockey League’s way of counting assists, solely for his benefit. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound guard played within the offense throughout his 24 minutes. Plus, he finished second on the active roster in plus-minus, which accounts for the score when a specific player is on the court, recording a plus-seven.
Moreover, the graduate student was 2-of-8 when shooting the rock, but many of his crisp attempts were merely a few inches away from dropping in.
During the aforementioned-spurt, Cain went on to notch 12 of the Blue Demons’ final 24 points, as well as, ironically, his team-high 24 points. He was also 5-of-7 from behind the arc. Over the first two contests, his shooting percentage sits at a stunning 56 percent.
The New Jersey native easily represents the top scoring option for the Blue Demons, and he’s starting to claim that role on a consistent basis. Beyond him, though, the rest of head coach Dave Leitao’s bunch shot 31.7 percent. On top of that, the four other starters, consisting of Tre'Darrius McCallum, Joe Hanel, Billy Garrett Jr. and Brandon Cyrus, hit just two field goals.
“In the first 10 minutes, we were moving the ball pretty well,” he said. “We just need to learn how to stick to the game plan.”
That blueprint fell apart in first stretch of the second half. DePaul missed nine of its first 11 shots in nearly the first eight minutes of the frame. Similar to their matchup against Robert Morris, the group seemed flustered when facing a zone defense.
Furthermore, considering Garrett Jr. ranked second on the team in scoring with 12.6 points per contest a campaign ago, his lack of production is extremely concerning. The senior’s jumper appears frigid, as he connected on only 1-of-11 attempts against Rutgers. In two games, he’s shooting an ice-cold 14.3 percent from the field.
A few times, Garrett Jr. attacked the paint and drew plenty of contact along the way. Then, he’d attempt a pull-up jumper within the next few possessions. Additionally, the guard fouled out after nearly doing so in the opener, where he picked up four fouls.
“I’m as concerned about his foul trouble as his scoring,” Leitao said. “If he’s early to spots and worries about everything else but scoring, guess what’s gonna happen. He’s gonna score.”
The remaining crop of guards floundered to provide a spark, too. In particular, Cyrus saw only 17 minutes, picking up two turnovers. Unlike in the opener, the freshman looked lost on the hardwood.
Shockingly, Darrick Wood, who scored seven points in eight minutes in the first half, never saw the floor in the final 20 minutes.
“I just chose to play Devin (Gage) a little more, and then I went to Erten (Gazi over Wood),” he said.
Nevertheless, freshman center Levi Cook missed another game due to a knee injury. Lacking a post presence, the Blue Demons’ issues begin with a non-existent inside-out game.
Even though Milwaukee may not provide a challenge in that area on Sunday, DePaul must solve this concern in the coming matchups. If not, an unfair burden will continue to fall onto Cain’s shoulders.