DePaul Blue Demons(10-9, 1-6 Big East, 2-3 Road)
at Rutgers Scarlet Knights(11-9, 3-4 Big East, 9-3 Home)
When: Wednesday Jan. 25, 2012 at 6 p.m. Central Time
Where: Louis Brown Athletic Center in Piscataway, N.J.
TV: The U Too (The Big East Network)
Online Streaming: ESPN3.com
Radio: WSCR AM 670
No. 12 Sophomore Forward Cleveland Melvin (6-foot-8, 205 pounds)
31.3 MPG, 18 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 44.3 FG%, 1.2 BPG
No. 20 Sophomore Guard Brandon Young (6-foot-3, 193 pounds)
30.5 MPG, 16.3 PPG, 44.2 FG%, 4.5 APG, 1.7 SPG
No. 5 Freshman Guard Eli Carter (6-foot-2, 190 pounds)
27.8 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 41.9 FG%, 31 made three-pointers, 1.2 SPG
No. 11 Junior Wing Dane Miller (6-foot-6, 215 pounds)
27.8 MPG, 7 PPG, 52 FG%, 6 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.4 SPG
No. 55 Sophomore Forward Gilvydas Biruta (6-foot-8, 245 pounds)
26.4 MPG, 9.7 PPG, 43.6 FG% 5.35 RPG, 1 SPG
Losing streaks in conference play have become all too common for DePaul in recent years. This year is no exception.
DePaul's 75-59 home defeat to the South Florida Bulls on Sunday marked the fifth consecutive loss for the Blue Demons. Four of those losses were by 16 points or more.
After facing a 37-29 deficit at halftime, DePaul got to within two points with less than 15 minutes remaining. DePaul's defense, however, once again was largely responsible for not allowing a comeback to occur. DePaul allowed South Florida to connect on 66.7 percent of their shots in the second half. All 16 made baskets were made inside the arc for the Bulls.
DePaul had its share of struggles on the offensive end against a good defensive South Florida team. DePaul shot 33.8 percent from the field and made 3-18 attempts from three-point range for the game.
For the second time in three weeks Brandon Young failed to make a field goal attempt. He went 0-13 from the field and finished with 6 points and 5 assists.
Cleveland Melvin led DePaul in scoring with 17 points to go along with 7 rebounds. A bright spot for DePaul was the play of freshman forward Jamee Crockett (6-foot-4, 202 pounds). In 20 minutes of action off the bench Crockett scored a season-high 15 points on 6-10 shooting from the field.
Rutgers had won three out of four games before dropping a tough road game against Georgetown by the score of 52-50.
In a game where offensive coaches may cringe and defensive coaches may celebrate, Rutgers took a 25-20 lead into halftime. A large reason for the lead was due to Georgetown only making 3-23 attempts from the field.
Georgetown got back on track offensively in the second half, but the differential at the free throw line could have been the main difference in the game's outcome. Georgetown held a 36-7 advantage in free throw attempts. Despite Rutgers holding Georgetown to 29.3 percent from the field, they could not manage to make up for the free throw margin.
Eli Carter was the only Rutgers player to score in double-figures with a 14 point performance. He did tie a season-high in turnovers with five, though.
Keys to a DePaul Victory
1. Brandon Young
Since arriving at DePaul Young has assumed primary responsibilities such as being a top scorer, playmaker and leader. Young has proven he could handle those roles, but has struggled of late.
In conference play thus far Young has averaged 14.3 points per game. His shooting percentage has taken the biggest hit dropping to 31.1 percent in seven Big East games.
Young has not been as turnover-prone as he was in conference play last season, but the poor shooting and decline in points is reason for concern.
For DePaul to get out of another annual losing streak in conference play, Young has to be more effective. He represents a huge chunk on the offensive end as a scorer, distributor and leader. When he is not on his game the rest of the team suffers.
Rutgers is a strong defensive team, but does have some smaller, inexperienced guards such as Carter and 5-foot-9 freshman guard Myles Mack. Young has the chance to exploit those matchups and have a strong game.
2. Speed up the tempo
With DePaul's defense struggling even more since conference play began, DePaul has to make sure they are playing at a tempo they are comfortable playing at.
DePaul plays at the quickest pace in the conference and averages 74 possessions per game. They have their share of issues initiating offense in a slow-down, halfcourt type of game.
For DePaul to set the tempo they must be effective in getting defensive rebounds and filling their lanes in transition to get several fastbreak opportunities. DePaul lacks the depth to make the transition game as effective as it can be, but still has a fair amount of players that can get this aspect of the game going.
When DePaul is able to get easy baskets they can set up their press and turn the game into their favor. If DePaul can do this and force 15-plus turnovers, they have a good chance to steal a road win.
3. More playing time for young bigs and Crockett
Starting senior center Krys Faber (6-foot-10, 258 pounds) has been through a lot of losing at DePaul and deserves credit for sticking around it all. At this point, however, it is time for DePaul to invest more minutes in sophomore Donnavan Kirk (6-foot-9, 222 pounds) and freshman Derrell Robertson Jr. (6-foot-10, 233 pounds) to see if they can improve the struggling frontcourt.
Faber has gone scoreless in three of the past six games and does not present DePaul with a reliable inside scoring or defending option. Both Kirk and Robertson Jr. have had their share of inconsistency as well, but need more minutes to work through those struggles and gain confidence heading forward. Kirk gives DePaul another potential offensive option, while Robertson Jr. has the ability to be a defensive presence with his shot blocking.
Crockett has seen his minutes fluctuate all season, but in four of the six games where he has played 20 minutes or more he has scored in double-figures. He offers possibly the most athleticism on a very athletic team, has shown an improving shot since his high school days and provides DePaul with an ideal option in their pressing defense.
Senior guard Jeremiah Kelly (6-foot, 166 pounds) remains a big-minute player, but it may be wise for DePaul to get Crockett and fellow freshman Charles McKinney (6-foot-3, 182 pounds) more time on the floor at the shooting guard spot for a better idea of what the future holds for those two young players.