Blue Demons blows big lead, loses game

By Nader Ihmoud

The DePaul University Blue Demons have 11 wins, the most since the team’s 2007–2008 season, but that did not translate into a win Feb. 1 against St. John’s University’s Red Storm.

The Demons lost 87-81 to the New York-based team after building a 12-point lead and permitting only 28 percent shooting in the first half.

“[Our] defense in the first half compared to the second half [was] night and day,” said DePaul Head Coach Oliver Purnell.

DePaul held the Red Storm to nine field goals and 30 points in the first half, but St. John’s found its rhythm in the final 20 minutes. The Red Storm shot more than 70 percent and made 22 of its field goal attempts in the second half.

St. John’s shifted the momentum in its favor when the team built up its defensive pressure. The Blue Demons did not score in the final 4:41 of the first half and allowed the Red Storm to end the half on an 11-0 run.

“We put a guy on the ball and made a full commitment to the press right before half time,” said St. John’s Assistant Coach Mike Dunlap. “I thought it was a

difference maker.”

St. John’s defensive play in the first half paved the way for the team’s scorers in the second. The Red Storm had four players score in double figures. Leading the way for the away team was freshman guard D’Angelo Harrison with 29 points.

Despite struggling in the first 20 minutes and only making 2 of 10 field goal attempts, Harrison scored 21 of his points in the second half, making five 3-pointers with seven overall.

“Our freshmen [Moe Harkless and Harrison] were a grand total 3 for 20 at halftime,” Dunlap said. “Basically, [the coaching staff] told them we love the way they were playing and they should take the same shots in the second half, and if they didn’t, they would be benched.”

Harrison said he has struggled in the first half before, and the coaching staff’s confidence in him helps propel him out of his shooting slumps. Harrison knocked down three 3-pointers in a row early in the second half, and from there he could not be contained.

“Once we allowed [Harrison] to get going, then he was very aggressive,” Purnell said.

Despite being outplayed in the last half of the game, DePaul brought the score within 3 points with one minute remaining in the game.

The Demons ended a five-game losing skid 69-64 at Rutgers Jan. 25. A win against St. John’s would have given the team its first back-to-back conference wins since the 2007–2008 season.

Purnell said he was disappointed in the loss because of his team’s great play early on, and he was looking for his team to win and continue to build heading into the last stretch of the regular season.

“We’re just going to try and get better,” Purnell said. “Hopefully, we learn from his one.”