DePaul (8-15, 1-10 in Big East) continues to fight despite being overmatched and on this night the Connecticut Huskies (14-9, 4-6 in Big East) had more bite in their dog to put away the Blue Demons, 64-57.
DePaul Interim Head Coach Tracy Webster continues to look at the positives in DePaul's struggles and said he is proud his team continues to gut it out.
"Our guys again continue to battle and they are staying hungry in that locker room and that's what we're looking for," said Webster after another close loss. "We just have to keep working, staying confident and staying hungry."
DePaul, much like the game versus Syracuse last Saturday, came out of the gate fast and furious connecting on most of their first half shots en route to shooting 50 percent from the floor in the first half and at one point taking a 20-12 led with 10:43 to go. They were not intimidated by the Huskies and took it to them.
However, a slew of first half turnovers, 12, led to many Connecticut baskets and DePaul could not keep up the big lead. Also, the foul calls for the teams led to a big disparity in the game. Webster, incensed by a charging call on Will Walker, received a technical foul with 7:13 to go in the half with the Demons up 23-18. The Huskies responded by going on a 14-4 run to end the half in which the Huskies led 34-27.
The second half was a testament to DePaul's grit. The Huskies, growing on the momentum they gained in the first half, lead would grow to 37-28 with 18:45 to go. Many of the more than 10,000 in attendance thought this was going to be an ensuing rout. But DePaul and Will Walker had other ideas.
Walker, who scored a game high 24 points, would almost singlehandedly keep DePaul in the game by scoring 17 of his 24 points in the second half, including four three pointers. His three-pointer with eight minutes to go narrowed the lead to one and nearly three minutes later a Devin Hill jumper in the lane gave the Demons a 52-51 lead with 5:49 to go. The Demons were feeling good about pulling off the upset.
"Even before taking the lead, our guys were really confident," Webster said about the momentum DePaul had gained by taking the lead. "They never gave up, and they have not been giving up the entire year. We just have to find a way to get over the hump."
Connecticut would respond, and got to the basket with ease and would draw many fouls and would eventually pull away in the final minutes. Nine of Connecticut's final 13 points came from the charity stripe.
"The definition of that game is a pure dentist game," explained Connecticut Interim Head Coach George Blaney. "It was grind it out, hang tough (type of game)."
Blaney acknowledged that getting to the free throw line was of huge importance as they are a team that loves to attack the basket.
"Fortunately, we got to the foul line 35 times ( as compared to the six attempts DePaul took), and that helped us a great deal, Blaney added. "We've been a team that has, over the last couple of years, been shooting three, four, almost five-hundred fouls shots more than our opponents, so it's not unusual to see a disparity in foul shots. We go to the basket very hard."
Webster would not blame the free-throw shooting disparity only adding that DePaul has to connect on their own.
"All I can say is the six we took, we need to make all six of them," Webster admitted. "That's what we need to do."
Jerome Dyson, who led the Huskies with 20 points, was the biggest beneficiary from the line as he connected on 10 of 11 free throws to help put away the Demons. The Huskies also placed two other players in double figures with Stanley Robinson and Gavin Edwards each scoring ten points.
DePaul will end their three-game road swing with a Valentine's Day tilt with the Seton Hall Pirates.
Note: DePaul junior guard Mike Stovall dressed but did not play in the contest due to "coach's decision".
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