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Men Break Bad Habits with Rutgers Victory

By David Berry
On January 30, 2012

Men Break Bad Habits with Rutgers Victory

Can one win validate a season? Not really, but it can give hope when it seemed to be dwindling.

The DePaul men's basketball team had an all-time high, at least for this season, after defeating Pittsburgh and having the students rush the court at Allstate Arena.

Then Soul II Soul must have pumped their hit song from the 90s into the Blue Demons:

"Back to life, back to reality, back to the here and now, yeah."

The win over Pitt doesn't quite look as big as it did that night, as the Panthers have lost eight of their last nine games before this past weekend and sit tied for last place in the Big East. Yes that last place, a spot that has normally been reserved for the Blue Demons in years past.

Simply put, the win over Rutgers is exactly what DePaul and head coach Oliver Purnell needed to make sure the team wasn't lost for the rest of the regular season and Big East Tournament.

In the five-game losing streak that was snapped by the win in Piscataway at the RAC, DePaul averaged giving up 83 points per game while only scoring 67. Some of those games were close and got away in the second half, but the 16 point differential was very concerning.

Other clear keys to breaking the losing streak were rebounding and opponent's field goal percentage. The Blue Demons were simply pounded on the boards during in the five straight losses by an average of 39 to nearly 26 rebounds a game. And because of missed shots, turnovers and players being left alone, opponents shot almost 55 percent from the field in that five-game span.

It was like there was a different team on the floor against the Scarlet Knights.

Even though the offense wasn't quite awake in the first half, the defense held their own, keeping Rutgers to 29 points. It was good enough that once the offense did wake up, DePaul was able to come away with the win.

As for the rebounding and opponents field goal percentage? The Blue Demons outrebounded the Scarlet Knights 30-29 and held them to 43 percent from the field.

Looking at what else went right, three-point shooting and the presence of a third scorer can't be overlooked.

DePaul can make three-pointers with the best of them in the Big East. When they are off, as they were only going 3-of-18 against USF, it takes a serious advantage away from the Blue Demons. When they are on, as they were going 9-0f-19 against Rutgers, well you see what can happen.

While all the numbers in the world can be thrown around, one of the biggest numbers is three, as in the third player to step up and support the Baltimore duo of Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. They are one of the most talented young combos in the nation, but one or both of them will have an occasional off night. During Big East play, there has rarely been someone else to step up and help them out.

In the win over Pittsburgh, Jeremiah Kelly and Moses Morgan came to the plate. Against Rutgers, Jamee Crockett had the game of his short college life with a career-high 20 points. It is really as simple as someone else emerging as a consistent third option that could contribute to more conference victories this season.

There's one more nugget of information to ponder: prior to this season, DePaul won one Big East game a season for the last three seasons. That means they've already equaled their output from the last two seasons and can equal the three-season output with just one more Big East win.

As clear as day, the Blue Demons needed this win over Rutgers to make the Pittsburgh win not feel like a fluke. A win in their next game will start a conference winning streak, something foreign to the players, coaches and fans in Lincoln Park.

And it will build more hope.

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