Tied for 14th in the Big East, DePaul makes Rutgers the favorite in a conference game for the first time at home this season. But the Blue Demons (10-9, 1-6) are much improved from last season, said head coach Mike Rice, and Rutgers cannot dwell on the past.
"Every home game is as big as it comes now," Rice said. "You don't know after this [loss], are they sad? Are they feeling sorry for themselves? Is their energy still going to be there because they didn't get to the left side of the board? You never know with this team. ... Hopefully they come with that focus and that energy."
In the two-point loss to Georgetown, Rutgers (11-9, 3-4) was called for two fouls in the final 90 seconds that led to the Hoyas tying the game and then winning it with a pair of free throws.
After watching tape and speaking with Big East head of officials Art Hyland, Rice is ready to move on.
"I can agree to disagree on very minimal calls to be honest with you," Rice said. "The last minute and 18 seconds is what it is, but you can't change it. I'll agree to disagree and we have to do a better job of our positioning and maybe do a better job of being more aggressive throwing the ball to the post.
"As I told Art Hyland, the head of the officials, we're not like a regular Big East team. We don't revolve our offense around the low post and getting it there and banging. We're more quickness, spreading the floor, aggressive style, so we foul. We have to create some contact to get on the foul line."
DePaul's lone win in the conference came at home against Pittsburgh, a team Rutgers blew out on the road less than a month ago. Last season, Rutgers beat DePaul on the road 68-64 with near double-doubles from Dane Miller and Gilvydas Biruta.
Facing the aggressive Blue Demon press, Rutgers had just nine turnovers last year, but that was with three seniors running the floor that have since graduated.
"I don't know [how we will handle the press], because I watched last year's tape and we were very efficient last year because [James Beatty], [Mike Coburn] and [Jonathan Mitchell] knew when to attack and when not to attack," Rice said. "If you shoot a three, that's like a turnover against this press. That's what they want you to do so you have to have a poise to you and a purpose and sometimes we lack that as a young team."
"[Randall] is more aware and locked in," Rice said. "He's nowhere near a finished product, but he has so much better of an understanding of what we want to do. His focus is so much better. He's trying. I know when I watch the film, he's trying to be in the right place. He's trying to box out. He's trying to get to the screen and do all those types of things."
Since taking a spot on the bench, Johnson said he feels more comfortable in his role.
"I would never be someone to complain about changing [my role]," Johnson said. "I like what I'm doing and Derrick is doing a great job. More than anything, I just want to win games. I've been here for two years and I'm sick of losing. I'm going to do what it takes to win."