Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Green's five takeaways from DePaul's 80-58 win over Bethune-Cookman

Photo Credit: Geno Green

By: Geno Green
Twitter: @TheGenoGreen

Behind three players in double figures scoring, the DePaul Blue Demons pulled away late in the first half with a 12-point lead and coasted to an 80-58 win over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Wintrust Arena. Here are my five takeaways from the season opener.

1) The Strus is loose:

As the top scorer for the Blue Demons’ last season, Max Strus would be on every opponent’s radar in the scouting report. The senior did not get fazed by the different looks Bethune-Cookman attempted to throw as he played off-ball to a tee with a game-high 25 points on 5-of-12 from three-point range in 37 minutes.

With the addition of Illinois transfer and fellow wing player Jalen Coleman-Lands, things are not expected to be as overwhelming for Strus as the attention could give opportunities for others to thrive. For the opener, Strus took advantage of what was given.

“We have weapons now and are looking to use it as much as possible,” Strus said. “We all have great relationships with each other and are looking where to go and how to get the ball to one another.”

2) The Butz bounce back:

Despite scoring the first points of the game, Jaylen Butz would be outworked on the other end by BCU’s Shawntrez Davis. Add a foul on top and DePaul coach Dave Leitao sat him in favor of NC A&T transfer Femi Olujobi, 1:57 into the game.

As Butz sat on the bench for the next 7:59 in game time, the Blue Demons continued to keep the Wildcats in the game, but the sophomore would enter with a second wind and played a part in the lead growing to as many as 12 at halftime of his putback as time expired. Butz stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points and seven rebounds, but Leitao used the substitution as a way to keep things even keeled.

“I didn’t want him to get too nervy and took him out,” Leitao said. “A lot of guys have put a lot of work in to get better and Jalen is at the front of the list in terms of his confidence because of the work he has put in this summer.

3) Reed between the lines:

With several players lost to graduation and/or transfer in the off-season, opportunity would occur and Paul Reed made the best of his first career start.

Reed looked out of place at first as he could not make anything, but as time moved along, the sophomore became more comfortable on the floor and began to make timely shots.

“When I was out there the first time, I was kind of cold,” Reed said. “When I came back into the game, I was more warmed up and had a better feel of the game in the second half. I was able to incorporate my game to how [Bethune-Cookman] had played.”

4) Cain’s dimes:

With Devin Gage missing most of last season to injury, DePaul inserted Eli Cain as the primary point guard, but struggled to get others involved for the most part. An off-season of work in the gym becoming more versatile paid off for the senior as he looked the part and then some with a game-high eight assists.

“It speaks to the importance of what he means from a substance standpoint on the court,” Leitao said. “The experience of last year allows him to be comfortable off the ball and probably would’ve played more if not for [Devin’s] foul trouble.”

The experiences paid off as the Wintrust Arena crowd as he executed a pair of crisp passes in as many possessions in the second half— an alley oop to Strus and a no-look pass to Reed.

5) Free-throw execution:

They say opportunities can end in quality results. For the Blue Demons, crisp movements and a will to go towards the paint paid off going 22-of-30 (73 percent) from the foul line compared to the Wildcats’ 6-of-13 (46 percent).

DePaul reached at least 20 free-throw makes for the second time in the last 15 games and will need to continue to assert themselves as non-conference games against opponents like Penn State, Notre Dame and Northwestern loom, along with the grind of the Big East schedule.