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March 11, 2013

DePaul-Rutgers Game Preview

DePaul vs. Rutgers Game Preview

By the numbers:

DePaul
Record-11-20, 2-16 in Big East
Leading Scorer's- Brandon Young: 16.8 points per game, 4.6 assists, 1.5 steals, .439% field goal percentage; Cleveland Melvin: 16.3 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, .474% field goal percentage.
Injury Report- none.
Last Five Games- 0-5

Rutgers
Record- 14-15, 5-13 in Big East
Leading Scorer- Myles Mack: 13.3 points per game, 1.8 steals, .480% field goal percentage, .451% three point field goal percentage.
Injury Report- Eli Carter (leading scorer at 14.9 points per game) is out for the rest of the season.
Last Five Games- 1-4

When DePaul and Rutgers face off on Tuesday in the first round of the 2013 Big East Men's Basketball Championship at the Madison Square Garden, it will be exactly 24 days since DePaul defeated Rutgers 75-69 at the All State Arena. That was DePaul's last victory, as the Blue Demons preceded to lose their next six games.

Rutgers has had to deal with adversity since the loss to DePaul on February 16th. Eli Carter, their leading scorer at 14.9 points per game, was sidelined for the rest of the season after he fractured the fibula in his right leg against DePaul. Without their top offensive weapon, Rutgers has relied heavily on guard Myles Mack sans Carter.

When Carter went down with his injury in the second half against DePaul, Mack filled his scoring void. And then some. Mack scored 18 points in the second half after Carter left the game, totaling 28 points against DePaul. Mack made 11 of 19 field goals, including 3 of 7 three pointers.

Rutgers lost its first four games without Carter, but the Scarlett Knights were able to scrap out a victory against Seton Hall this past Friday. Rutgers defeated Seton Hall 56-51 to end their regular season. Mack led the way with 15 points and 5 steals.

Here are DePaul's three keys to a victory over Rutgers:

1. Supporting Cast Must Step Up
DePaul knows what its going to get out of its potent junior scoring duo, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. They both combine to score 33.1 points per game, and are the only double-digit scorer's on DePaul's roster. Therein lies a problem. Its DePaul's supporting cast that needs to show up. In DePaul's two Big East victories (wins over Providence and Rutgers), DePaul had four double-digit scorers in each victory. Worrel Clahar, Jamee Crockett and Donnavan Kirk will need to contribute offensively, much like they did in their last victory against Rutgers. The three combined to score 35 points, with Clahar scoring a career-high 19 points. On the season, the three only average 22.5 points combined. For DePaul to win, the trio will need to score at least 30.

2. Defend The Three Point Line
DePaul has struggled all season long with its half-court defense. Opponents have been alarmingly efficient offensively against DePaul. DePaul's Big East opponents have shot .409% from the three point line against the Blue Demons this year. Mack comes into the game shooting 45% from the three point line, and he torched DePaul for 28 points in their last meeting. He'll be counted on to carry Rutgers offensively. Since Carter's been out, Mack has been Rutgers lone double-digit scorer. If DePaul can limit Mack, they'll essentially limit the entire Rutgers offense.

3. Attack The Basket, Get To The Free Throw Line
In addition to DePaul's offensive balance in their victory over Rutgers, the Blue Demons also made 18 of 24 free throws. It's a major reason DePaul was able to hold on and secure their victory over Rutgers. The Blue Demons will again need to attack the basket in an attempt to draw fouls. But that's half the battle, DePaul will also need to capitalize and make its free throws.

Prediction: DePaul 70, Rutgers 59

If DePaul can take care of business against Rutgers, rival Notre Dame awaits in the second round of the tournament. DePaul has lost to Notre Dame twice this season by a combined 12 points, with both games extending into overtime. This potential DePaul/Notre Dame matchup would be one of the more compelling games in the tournament, given the team's overtime bouts earlier this season. Who knows what the outcome would be. After all, it is March.


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