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RV Marquette Basketball Big East Preview Primer: at DePaul

The Golden Eagles come into Chicago looking to beat the Blue Demons for the second time this season.

Big East Tournament First Round: Xavier vs DePaul Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images

RV Marquette Golden Eagles (18-10, 10-7 Big East) at DePaul Blue Demons (14-14, 5-13 Big East)

Date: Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022
Time: 8pm Central
Location: Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois

Marquette Stats Leaders

Points: Justin Lewis, 16.4 ppg
Rebounds: Justin Lewis, 7.9 rpg
Assists: Tyler Kolek, 5.9 apg

DePaul Stats Leaders

Points: Javon Freeman-Liberty, 21.7 ppg
Rebounds: Javon Freeman-Liberty, 7.4 rpg
Assists: Jalen Terry, 3.1 apg

KenPom.com Rankings

Marquette: #36
DePaul: #107
Game Projection: Marquette has a 62% chance of winning, with a projected score of 75-72.

Last Time Out: Marquette 87 - DePaul 76. 11 points isn’t exactly the difference that this game deserved. In the second half, Marquette looked everything like the dominant team they had been in the couple of games leading into this matchup. Marquette was only up one point at the half after allowing DePaul to shoot 53% in effective field goal percentage through the first 20 minutes. But, early in the second half with Marquette up 51-50, they turned on the jets and put the game out of reach. So much out of reach, in fact, that the subs lineup didn’t score in the final 3:48 and the gap only closed to 11 points.

Since We Last Met: A confusing stretch of results from DePaul with a couple of decent wins and bunch of losses. In this 13 game stretch, DePaul went 5-8. Immediately following their defeat to Marquette, DePaul beat Seton Hall at home in a shootout, 96-92. Instead of carrying their momentum from that pretty good win, they went on a four game skid. They lost to Xavier at home by just one point. They lost to Creighton in Omaha by 13 and got thrashed by Villanova in Philly by 24 points. A trip to UConn saw them lose by seven. Was part of the problem here that these four losses were the first four games of Javon Freeman-Liberty’s seven straight games missed due to injury? Probably for sure in the Xavier and UConn games, maybe not so much in the other two.

They kicked off February with a couple of wins: getting revenge over Xavier by four, and beating Georgetown at home by eight. DePaul then proceeded to rattle off four straight losses again. They took now Big East regular season champs Providence to OT in Providence but lost by four in the final game that JFL missed. They lost to Butler at home by 2. They lost to Creighton again, this time by 12, and Seton Hall got their revenge by beating DePaul by 2. DePaul comes into Milwaukee on a two game winning streak. They went to DC and beat Georgetown by three, and nearly put up 100 on St. John’s at home, winning that game 99-94.

You can always learn something: Sometimes, it can be hard to point out possible improvements in a game where 25ish minutes were pretty dominant. This was not one of those games. The first half, well the whole game, was a pretty bad defensive showing. It was Marquette’s worst defensive showing in a win and third worst all season according to BartTorvik.com.

The rebounding issues reared their ugly head in the game as we let DePaul snag 47.6% of their missed shots for a total of 19 (!!!) offensive rebounds on the game. It’s the second biggest percentage of the season and the most offensive rebounds Marquette has given up in a single game this season. That’s really bad, and it’s honestly a miracle that DePaul didn’t shoot the ball any better. If they had, this preview might have a completely different tone.

One major thing that changes from game one to game two is the addition of Nick Ongenda to the Blue Demons’ lineup. The 6’11 junior missed the first meeting, but in his absence Yor Anei went crazy. Anei is the natural replacement for Ongenda, and the senior put up 16 points and 11 rebounds, with a whopping seven coming on the offensive end. It’s hard to put up better numbers than that, but Marquette has been plagued by good bigs this season, looking at you, Adama Sanogo. Ongenda is also nationally ranked in the top 375 in offensive rebounding rate according to KenPom.com. We’ll file that under “potential massive problem.” A quick way to improve the result of that game would be to not let DePaul get so many of their own misses. But that’s probably easier said than done for this team.

Letting DePaul score 43 points in the first half, definitely not a good look for Marquette’s defense. Now, that DePaul offense is prone to the occasional high-scoring game, they’ve hit 90+ points five times this season. For context, Marquette has hit that number just once, and the Golden Eagles are playing at a much faster pace on average this year. DePaul doesn’t shoot the ball all that well, they’re ninth in the Big East in two-point percentage and eighth in three point percentage, but what they do really well is get to the free throw line.

They aren’t particularly special when they get there (in fact, #270 in the country at FT% is actually kind of bad), but they get there a LOT which offsets that. They’re led by star player Javon Freeman-Liberty who is 43rd in the country in foul rate. That’s pretty good. In the first game, Marquette did a really good job at playing disciplined defense and only let DePaul shoot 11 free throws. DePaul gets a lot of their points off of free throws so staying disciplined defensively is one of the keys to the game.

The reason that game was so set and done despite the below-average reason is that the offense played really really well. Greg Elliot had 25 points on just 11 shots, Tyler Kolek had 10 assists on 32 MU buckets that he didn’t score himself, and Stevie Mitchell had an offensive rating above 230. That’s ridiculous, but also tells you how valuable you can be without shooting the ball, as Mitchell finished the game with not a single attempt from the field. Marquette shot 45.8% from three as a team, and they did it without David Joplin connecting on his patented One David Joplin Three-Point Attempt Per Game. That’s pretty good I’d say.

DePaul isn’t very good at defending the three. They are tenth in the Big East in defensive three point percentage, meaning that they allow opponents to shoot it well from behind the arc. Clearly, Marquette was able to exploit that in the last game and it’s something I would expect to continue in this game, with Shaka Smart’s emphasis on not just creating three pointers but creating quality three pointers.

Other than three point defense, both how often they go in and how often they allow you to fire away, DePaul’s defense isn’t especially bad at defending anything. It’s more that they’re just not particularly good at defending much. They’re the tenth best defense in the Big East according to KenPom.com. There’s a lot of potential ways to exploit this defense, but three point shooting is the best opportunity.

This rematch is a chance for Marquette to get back to basics. A disciplined defense that doesn’t allow an exorbitant amount of offensive rebounds and an offense that shoots the three especially well is enough to beat the Blue Demons.

Stat Watch: Kur Kuath played just six minutes in the last game against Butler, so we’re still at the 74 block mark. It’s still the seventh best shot blocking season in Marquette’s history. He’s teetering on the precipice of moving up a few spots: two more blocks and he ties Amal McCaskill in sixth, and five more blocks puts him into a tie with Jim McIlvaine for fifth. Petition to add a “Mc” to Kuath’s last name anyone?

Marquette Last 10 Games: 6-4, going 2-3 in the last five games.

DePaul Last 10 Games: 4-6, with wins coming in the last two games.

All Time Series: 81-49 in Marquette’s favor

Current Streak: Marquette took the last two, but DePaul has the two games before that.

Follow Along On Twitter

@AnonymousEagle - Hey, that’s us!
@GunvilleJohn - I wrote this preview!
@MarquetteMBB - Official MU account
@DePaulHoops - Official DePaul account
@becb_sbn - our SB Nation friends that follow the whole Big East
@BenSteeleMJS - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel MU beat writer