Webster to Re-Start DePaul vs. Providence

The DePaul Blue Demons square off with the Providence Friars on Thursday night on ESPN2. In this comprehensive report, we hear from newly-named Interim Head Coach Tracy Webster, Providence coach Keno Davis, DePaul players Eric Wallace and Will Walker, and DePaul AD Jean Lenti Ponsetto.

Key Information

DePaul Blue Demons vs. Providence Friars - Thursday, January 14th, 8:00 p.m. Central – Allstate Arena, Rosemont, Illinois

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Game Preview

Tracy Webster signed on at DePaul (7-8, 0-3) in the spring of last year as an assistant coach. At the time, he likely had no idea what would soon follow.

With Monday's dismissal of coach Jerry Wainwright, Webster now finds himself thrust into the interim head coach position during Big East conference play with the Providence Friars (10-6, 2-2) coming to town on Thursday night.

Given an eight day layoff between games to reshape, remold, and jump start the Blue Demons, many DePaul observers are wondering what differences Webster will bring to the table against Providence?

The first difference will be a renewed emphasis on defense. Webster wants the Demons to play "crazy defense" like they did in late November.

"I want to get back to playing our Virgin Island's defense," Webster said. "Hopefully that's what we'll see, where guys played really, really hard."

Defense is something the Demons need to focus on after Villanova outscored DePaul 99-72 last week.

"We want to make sure that guys aren't scoring 99 points against us," said Tracy. "We want to make sure that we're getting all the loose balls, 50/50 balls, and doing all the right things that help us as the season goes on. That's just really playing hard on the defensive end. The offense is going to take care of itself."

The other aspect that DePaul fans will likely see on Thursday night is a quickening of the tempo. Wainwright had DePaul playing a grind-it-out, deliberate half-court game. Webster plans to open the throttle a bit, which will better suit some of his players.

"Maybe we can, if they take care of the ball," said Webster. "I wish we could score 80 points a game, but we've got to make shots and we've got to make free throws."

"We're picking up the tempo right now," said senior guard Will Walker. "We're going to pick up the pace a lot more."

Webster had been leading practices after Wainwright suffered a leg injury last week. He's since led the Demons through two practices since taking over as interim coach.

The team has already noticed a difference in the air at practice.

"We've come together more so than we have been," said sophomore forward Eric Wallace. "The intensity level in practice has gone up."

Walker and his teammates have been dealing with the loss of Wainwright's presence. Having someone like Webster around is helping them cope.

"It's hard on some of the guys, but we're happy that we have coaches here that we already knew," Walker said.

Walker has had the advantage of knowing Webster since he was a junior in high school, when Tracy recruited him while at the University of Illinois.

"He's a real good coach and real easy to relate with," Will said.

Now the Demons prepare for a young Providence team. This game represents one of DePaul's best opportunities to end their Big East conference losing streak.

"I've really been pleased with our team's effort," said Providence coach Keno Davis. "We added seven new players to our program along with two players that redshirted last year. We're as young as any team in the country or at least as inexperienced. Every opportunity we get in the Big East, we learn something. Hopefully we can continue to become a better ballclub because of it."

While the Friars are a young team, they feature an experience point guard in Sharaud Curry who is averaging 20.5 ppg and almost four assists per game in league play. The last time PC met DePaul, Curry dropped 25 on the Demons.

One of the more intriguing matchups in this game will be PC's Jamine "Greedy" Peterson on the boards.

Providence leads the Big East in rebounding and Peterson is a large reason why. He is the second leading rebounder in the Big East. Greedy leads the Friars in both scoring and rebounding at 17.8 ppg and 10.6 rebounds per game.

"Greedy Peterson has been leading us with over 10 rebounds a game," said Davis. "We need to continue to lean on him to come up with double-digit rebounds, but then some of our guards have to rebound and come up with big numbers for us."

Starting guard Marshon Brooks (15.2 ppg) has missed practice the last two days and is a game-time decision for PC.

The Friars will be without the services of junior forward Russ Permenter who reportedly did not travel with the team to Chicago. Permenter was averaging 2.2 ppg and 2.1 rebounds per game.

Not long after being named interim coach, Webster received a congratulatory phone call from his old high school teammate at Thornton High School – Rodell Davis, who is now an assistant coach at Providence.

"He called me," Webster said of Davis. "We talked a little bit. I mean he's excited, but he doesn't want us to win either though."

On Monday, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto made no secret what her expectations are of Webster as interim coach.

"My expectations for the rest of the season are that our kids compete," said Ponsetto. "I think that is not an unrealistic expectation. I think he's got a task ahead of him that he's got to coach our kids up a little bit and that they would be competitive."

With 15 games remaining in the Big East season, Webster realizes what's at stake.

"We're going to try to win ball games, and let everything else take care of itself."

The Last Time

The Friars ended the Blue Demons season by eliminating them from the Big East tournament in the second round at Madison Square Garden on March 11, 2009 by a score of 83-74.

Junior guard Sharaud Curry led the Friars with 25 points. Weyinmi Efejuku scored 23 and Geoff McDermott had eight points and nine rebounds.

Providence held DePaul without a field goal for almost eight minutes in the second half.

Junior guard Will Walker and sophomore guard Dar Tucker accounted for 61 of DePaul's 74 points. Walker scored 31 points and Tucker had 30. It was the first time two teammates scored at least 30 in a Big East tournament game.

Providence Roster

NO NAME Yr Ht Wt Position Hometown/High School 1 Duke Mondy FR 6-3 196 Guard Grand Rapids, Mich./Catholic Central '09

2 Marshon Brooks JR 6-5 190 Guard/Forward Stone Mountain, Ga./Tucker '07

3 Johnnie Lacy FR 6-0 170 Guard Milwaukee, Wis./Notre Dame Prep. '09

4 Sharaud Curry SR 5-10 170 Guard Gainesville, Ga./Wheeler '05

5 Kyle Wright JR 6-6 215 Guard/Forward Hartford, Conn./Brewster Academy '06

10 Kadeem Batts FR 6-8 235 Forward Powder Springs, Ga./John McEachern '09

12 Luke Burchett SR 6-0 185 Guard Western Springs, Ill./Fenwick '06

15 Xavier Davis FR 5-11 160 Guard Smithfield, R.I./Smithfield '09

21 Jamine Peterson SO 6-6 230 Forward Brooklyn, N.Y./Notre Dame Prep. '07

23 Brian McKenzie SR 6-4 205 Guard Brooklyn, N.Y./Xaverian '06

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

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

42 Bilal Dixon FR 6-8 228 Forward/Center Jersey City, N.J./Queen of Peace '08

44 Russ Permenter JR 6-9 230 Forward Temple, Texas/Temple '07

45 James Still FR 6-9 210 Forward Detroit, Mich./Detroit Community '09

55 Ray Hall SR 6-11 265 Center Denver, Colo./J.K. Mullen '06

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