DePaul vs. Marquette Game Preview

It may be Valentine's Day, but there certainly is no love between bitter rivals DePaul and 12th ranked Marquette. In this preview, we hear from Blue Demons head coach Jerry Wainwright on the big game…

Key Information

DePaul Blue Demons vs. Marquette Golden Eagles – Wednesday, February 14, 2007 – 7:30 p.m. CST – Rosemont, Illinois

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Game Preview

The date will read February 14th, Valentines Day, but there will be no love lost between DePaul and their next opponent as the Marquette Golden Eagles come to Rosemont for their only matchup of the season on Wednesday night for a key Big East matchup. This rivalry needs no introduction as these two schools generally don't have a liking for one another. Who said we couldn't have a spat on Valentines Day?

Marquette is a very solid squad that has to be taken with the utmost of importance. The Golden Eagles, ranked 12th in the AP poll and 13th in the USA Today coaches poll, come in to the game with a record overall of 21-5 and 8-3 in the Big East and winners of eight of their last nine games. They had won eight in a row prior to losing to Georgetown 76-58 on Saturday afternoon.

DePaul (14-11,5-6) has yet to gain the momentum and consistency that can take this team to the next level, but they have won two out of their last three and are seeking another signature win to boost confidence to the stratosphere. DePaul is coming off the heels of a very emotional win last Thursday at home against Notre Dame in a gritty 67-66 victory. In that game DePaul showed a sense of urgency lacking all season. For this matchup against Marquette, Jerry Wainwright and company will have had six days to prepare for this battle. Time will tell if the rest helped this squad recharge its batteries.

Marquette is a team heavily predicated on guard play. The glue and go-to guy is 5-11 sophomore guard Dominic James (15.3 ppg and 4.6 apg-both team highs). Currently James is mired in an awful shooting slump, punctuated by a dreadful 2-17 shooting outing vs. Georgetown. James is the engine that gets the Golden Eagles running, and you can't expect him to be down too long. However, Marquette is not a one man show as wing guards Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews (both sophomores as well) can and will pick up the slack. They are currently second and third in scoring with each scoring 14 ppg and 12 ppg respectively. These three guards compliment each other very well. Like DePaul, Marquette head coach Tom Crean loves his team to get out on the open floor and score in transition. These guards can slash and penetrate and create for others and they will find open shooters. But unlike in years past, this year's version of Marquette is not quite as effective from the perimeter without sharpshooter Steve Novak. They shoot only 32% from three point range, good for only 12th in the conference. Conversely DePaul is 7th at 35% from behind the arc.

Where Marquette can be exploited may be in the frontcourt, but the play of 6-10 junior forward/center Ousmane Barro has dramatically improved as Barro is good for 9.1 ppg and a team high 7 rpg. Barro along with 6-6 freshman forward Lazar Hayward (6.2 ppg) are the only legitimate inside options Crean has at his disposal. 6-9 senior forward Dan Fitzgerald (6.6 ppg and 43.9% from 3 point range) is another weapon, but he is mostly a perimeter player who likes to take his man away from the basket much like Novak did.

This game will likely be a battle of wills and who will want it more. DePaul must come out focused with a sense of urgency. For DePaul to come away with a win, they need Wilson Chandler to be on top of his game like he was versus Notre Dame (season high 25 points and 14 rebounds) and need to get some scoring punch from either Sammy Mejia or Draelon Burns. Burns has been on fire of late, and being that Burns is from Milwaukee, we can expect Draelon to be extra amped and ready to go. Cutting off Marquette's dribble penetration is crucial and getting anything from DePaul's point guards is a great bonus.

Winning this game for DePaul can do wonders for a plethora of reasons. They still need as many wins to at least be comfortable of playing in the Big East Tournament. Plus a win would even up their conference record at 6-6 and in my opinion cement a spot in the BIg East field especially with an easier schedule coming up after this game. If DePaul has any hopes for an NCAA bid, it is paramount that they get another signature win that can boost its RPI and impress the NCAA selection committee.

But for nothing else this is DePaul's longest continuous rivalry and for nothing more than pride DePaul must protect its homecourt and not let Marquette have another year of bragging rights.

Blue Demons Coach Jerry Wainwright on the Center Position

"In general just talking to a lot of coaches, we create a lot of matchup problems of our own. One of the deciding factors will be the center spot. Their young guy (Barro) has really improved and I'm impressed with him. He can really run and he's the key to their team and without question they are the fastest team in the league. It would be nice to get some production in the paint from the big guys and Keith (Butler) is getting back to being healthy."

Wainwright on DePaul Junior Guard Draelon Burns

"As a competitor on a scale of one to 10, he's a 10. He's been incredible in handling his roles and he's really ignited us and played without fear, but that doesn't mean he's always played smart. He had a great off-season and got his bench press over 300 pounds and he's really worked hard in his individual workouts on his ball handling. Then we challenged him to step up on the defensive end and he's really stepped it up. That's a testament to his coachability and his willingness to compete. He's a kid who when he gets on the bus and he's played extended minutes, he's exhausted. He leaves it all on the floor. By getting stronger he's made himself a productive athlete. Twice this year he's come back from road trips, gotten the ball out of his locker at 12 midnight and went to the gym and started shooting. He's got tremendous pace to his game and I'm starting to learn when he gets tired. He's got no second gear, he's third gear and then he's in first. He's never learned how to pace himself. He's a kid who's not going to take starting for granted. Last year when he'd come out of a game he'd ask every time what I did wrong and it got to the point where if he asks me that again he'd never go back in. He could go 0-4, sit down and then regroup and then go 4-4. He's elevated our team's performance. He might be the guy they circle number one on the scouting report."

Wainwright on Guarding Dominic James

"Cliff and Draelon play ball level. They can force strips. Dominic James is a great competitor he's a dynamo. He's got terrific speed and he loves to find cracks and attack. You got to be careful with going out with him and he's not going at you, cause you're going to lose. I don't think you guard James, I think you have to guard him with your team. Both Cliff and Draelon are aggressive."

Wainwright on the Marquette Rivalry

"I'd love to play everyone twice. I love home and homes. It's an easy trip and great rivalry and if I'm going to play one game I'm glad it's at home. You have to give them a lot of credit. They regrouped and I'm not sure how Tommy approached it, but they've been playing with incredible efficiency. Any time they win on the road like they've done, they got my admiration. It's another critical game. To tell you the truth, not only is it a meaningful game, it's a great match up. Somebody asked me wouldn't you rather be playing Piedmont State. To have a game of this magnitude this early in February, it's terrific. I hope our non-conference schedule has prepared us for this. I hope the pendulum swings and for a long way for DePaul."

Wainwright On Starting Out Games

"I can't get new players. We can't hold the ball for 10 minutes. What's interesting is we lost the jump and (ND's Russell) Carter jumps up and makes the three and we miss a layup. We come down and their freshman kid makes an easy shot and we turn it over. Then their freshman shoots it over Wilson and my timeout was if you continue to give up those shots, they're going to score 200 points. If we miss a shot and they make their layup, we'll lose 200-0 if they spurt against you, you always want it to happen in the first minutes. Same thing happened last year with Novak hitting all those threes last year. This game should go down to what the Notre Dame game went down to. I think about that a lot, for whatever reason were always too excited or were too cool. I know this, we're not efficient, especially on the offensive end. I use to script plays and I've never done that here yet and I'm not going to do it against Marquette either, but I think you need a few baskets early."

Wainwright On the Big Game

"We have to win that battle. It's not like Barro is small, it's just he's so fast. If you need the cavalry you're not sending Butler or else you're not going to have a scalp. The kid (Barro) has great speed. The only way you can slow it is when you have to force you to slow it down. If he's allowed to hang out, rebound, and run and if he does that, we have to go to plan B."

"We have to make sure we have our main guys at the end of the second half. I've shortened the rotation, because it's hard for freshman to play right now."

"Cliff has made lay-ups rather then looks to pass and Currie gets to the rim. They both have really helped us and they're getting a feel for playing with one another. They've been good for us and now you have Karron off the bench and Wilson and Markus. Heard, Burns, and Clarke, if we get one of those guys in double figures we'll be in good shape."

"I don't think they allow you to play one man on him and we'll have to pick him up in transition and the game is decided in the first two steps with who gets the ball. I think most teams have slowed down to play us. We're really fast if Marcus is in the game in the four or five. I think you have to what you do best. If they get more offensive rebounds and transition baskets were going to be in trouble."

Marquette Roster

No. Name Ht./Wt. Pos. Year Hometown (High School)

1 Dominic James 5-11/175 G SO Richmond, Ind. (Richmond)

2 Maurice Acker 5-8/165 G SO Hazelcrest, Ill. (Hillcrest)

5 Dan Fitzgerald 6-9/205 F JR St. Paul, Minn. (St. Thomas Academy)

10 David Cubillan 6-0/170 G FR Mara Caibo, Venezuela (St. Benedict's (N.J.))

12 Dwight Burke 6-8/245 F SO Brooklyn, N.Y. (St. Benedict's Prep (N.J.))

21 Lawrence Blackledge 6-8/185 F JR Carbondale, Ill. (Carbondale)

22 Jerel McNeal 6-3/195 G SO Chicago, Ill. (Hillcrest)

23 Wesley Matthews 6-5/215 G SO Madison, Wis. (Memorial)

32 Lazar Hayward 6-6/215 F FR Buffalo, N.Y. (Notre Dame Prep (Mass.))

40 Mike Kinsella 7-0/250 C SR Rochester, Minn. (John Marshall)

41 Ousmane Barro 6-10/245 F JR Dakar, Senegal (Chicago Julian)

42 Tommy Brice 5-11/174 G JR Bloomingdale, Ill. (Lake Park)

45 Craig Kuphall 6-2/185 G SR Menomonee Falls, Wis. (Wisconsin Lutheran)

51 Jamil Lott 6-7/225 F SR St. Paul, Minn. (Como Park)

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