Blue Demons Gain Confidence in First Win

DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright earned his first men's basketball victory at DePaul, through preparation, defense, and some outstanding play from freshman Jabari Currie. Currie received his first collegiate start in the 59-49 win over the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday in Rosemont. "It was a big win for us," said Wainwright. "When you play three games in five days, it's always good to get the first one."

The game was close for the first 15 minutes. With DePaul leading 21-20, Marcus Heard hit back-to-back shots from three point land to key a 10 point Blue Demons run to close out the first half. DePaul never trailed again. The teams went into the locker room at intermission with DePaul leading 31-20.

Heard had occupied the end of the bench on Dave Leitao's DePaul team of last year. Through off season conditioning and weight training Heard gained 30 pounds and has made quite a transformation in just one season. Marcus managed 10 points in just 13 minutes in the first half. Heard is now averaging 13 points per game.

The Blue Demons mixed defenses to hold Northwestern to 20 first half points and sharpshooter Vedran Vukusic to eight in the half. "DePaul came out and set the tone for things early on," Northwestern coach Bill Carmody observed. "They put us back on our heels with the 2-2-1 press. That put us out of whack a little bit. We expected 2-3 zone."

DePaul outrebounded Northwestern 19-10 in the first half and dominated the offensive glass 9 to 3. "Coach really emphasized that we'd play a loose man-to-man, a match-up zone," said DePaul forward Karron Clarke. "Whenever a team plays zone, it's always hard to get the rebounds. We worked on crashing the offensive boards in practice."

DePaul picked up where they left off in the second half. The Wildcats managed to pull within three at 52-49 on a Craig Moore trey with 2:08 remaining. During the ensuing timeout Carmody told his team to watch out for Blue Demons forward Karron Clarke. "We said just make sure five (Clarke) doesn't beat us and he knocks down the three," said Carmody.

For freshman point guard Jabari Currie, this was his coming out party. Currie finished with 13 points and four assists. "He's a good player," Carmody said. "I liked him when I saw him at Adidas camp when he was in high school."

Heard approved of the performance by his teammate. "I think he did a really good job, not just for a freshman, but for a point guard in general," said Heard. "He did a really good job for his first game starting."

"I thought he was fearless," said Wainwright on his freshman point guard. "He's very coachable. I think he's got tremendous talent."

Vukusic finished with 22 points to lead all scorers, but was held to three of nine three-point shooting. "He's tough," said Clarke. "He's kind of tall. He can shoot. He's a threat. We did everything we could just to contain him."

"He's an incredibly skilled player," Wainwright commented on Vukusic. "He's got great composure. He's got unlimited range."

Wainwright credited his team with following the game plan. "They trusted the game plan and stuck with it," said Wainwright. "I told our guys that this would be a 50 point game and that we couldn't let them get 60."

"The real players of the game were the ‘red team'," said Wainwright referring to the practice squad that simulated Northwestern's Princeton-style offense in practice. The red team is composed of three walk-ons, transfer Keith Butler, and the fifth player rotated between Heard and Lorenzo Thompson. Wainwright praised his son Scott for the preparation with the red team.

Marlon Brumfield suffered an ankle injury on Thanksgiving and was wearing a boot on Thursday night. He worked out with trainer Amy Ingraffia to get him ready for the game. "He really solidified the middle for us," Wainwright remarked. "Having him play over 30 minutes meant a lot to us." Brumfield totaled nine rebounds and four points in the game.

Wainwright praised Draelon Burns for a late jumper in transition. "People will remember Karron Clarke's long three, but that was more designed," Wainwright said. "Where Draelon just made an aggressive move on the fast break and kind of helped us regain our footing."

Clarke's three was no doubt a back breaker for the Wildcats. Clarke led the Blue Demons with a double-double as he racked up 15 points and 10 rebounds. Notes:

The Waldo Fisher-Frank McGrath Award goes to the Most Valuable Player of the DePaul-Northwestern game. This year the award was shared by NU's Vukusovic and DePaul's Jabari Currie and Karron Clarke. Currie was the first freshman to win the award since former Blue Demon Dave Corzine won it in 1974.

NU center Mike Thompson was out for the second straight game due to illness.

The Blue Demons have little time to rest on their laurels as they have a little more than 48 hours to prepare for the Northern Illinois Huskies on Monday night.

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