Breaking News Bar
updated: 12/9/2019 6:43 AM

O'Donnell: DePaul's dream of going unbeaten dies hard in 74-69 loss

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • DePaul's Jaylen Butz handles the ball during Sunday's game against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena.

    DePaul's Jaylen Butz handles the ball during Sunday's game against Buffalo at Wintrust Arena.
    Courtesy of DePaul

 

If Frederick Nietzsche covered DePaul men's basketball, he'd probably write it off to the eternal recurrence of the same.

If the Grateful Dead had played halftime of the Blue Demons' dream-crunching 74-69 loss to visiting Buffalo on Sunday, they'd have reminded that when life looks like easy street, there is danger at the door.

The loss was the first of a remarkably resilient start by Dave Leitao and his new blue.

They're now 9-1. When the major new Top 25 rankings come out Monday, DePaul likely won't be listed.

If the Blue Demons were 10-0, they probably would be.

In a nine-minute meeting with media after the game, Leitao dismissed that concern quicker than Jim Whitesell's MAC Bulls (6-3) surprisingly KO'd the home team.

"I probably spend minus-10 seconds worrying about that," Leitao said.

But remaining DePaul fans and those looking for a reason to return to the herd do.

The best news is the Blue Demons still have at least 22 more games to play and are considered a certainty by some very knowledgeable basketball people -- barring catastrophe -- to be in the NCAA tournament next spring.

And in that long run, Sunday's hard downer may pay foundational dividends.

But the result chloroformed many of the 4,419 at Wintrust Arena in part because star point guard Charlie Moore played so ineffectively and because Leitao and staff have had better days as basketball coaches.

Switching and sliding lineups in the first half, Leitao watched the Demons turn the ball over 15 times -- 6 by Moore -- and enable Buffalo to flip a 30-29 deficit into a 37-30 halftime lead.

The Bulls then opened the second half with a 10-0 move -- 8 by backcourt flame thrower Jayvon Graves, who finished with 21 -- that made it 47-30.

Still, given DePaul's remarkable recent comebacks against Central Michigan and Texas Tech, the faithful waited on another miracle.

And they almost got it, in large part because 6-9 junior Paul Reed (15 points, 18 rebounds, 5 blocked shots, 4 steals) is one of the best players in the Big East and likely one of the best defenders in the nation.

The Buffalo lead peaked at 56-37 with 12:48 remaining when Reed and ready mates like Jalen Coleman-Lands (17 points), Romeo Weems (13) and Jaylen Butz (11) got to work.

A Reed jumper made it a manageable 58-49 with 8:06 left.

But a Graves trey pushed it back 64-49 with 6:42 remaining.

The Demons still had life. And a Coleman-Lands layup with 1:42 trimmed it to 66-62.

But with the Bulls making free throws -- and DePaul missing 11 of 18 in the end -- the Demons would get no closer than 72-69 after a spectacular Reed steal and coast-to-coaster with: 09 on the clock.

After 2-for-15 shooting vs. Texas Tech, the foggy Moore was 3-for-14 against Buffalo with 8 turnovers, 8 points and only 6 assists.

"Charlie's a competitor and I also know he had the ball in his hands too much today," Leitao said.

"That means we're not moving and passing the ball. When four or five guys touch it, we generally get what we want.

"That didn't happen. Our mindset wasn't there.

"The mistakes we made, Buffalo made us pay for 'em. And when we tried to come back, they were good enough.

"When we were 9-0, people asked if I was happy and I said, "No I'm not happy because you're not supposed to be happy on a journey.'

"What you are supposed to be is ready for nights like this and we obviously weren't."

Nietzsche and Jerry Garcia wouldn't argue that point.

• Jim O'Donnell's Sports & Media column appears Thursday and Sunday. Reach him at jimodonnelldh@yahoo.com.