Northwestern vs. DePaul: Keys to the Game
By Kendall Wright
After escaping with a win earlier this week against Prairie View A&M, Northwestern men’s basketball continues its six-game homestand in a matchup against the DePaul Blue Demons on Saturday.
DePaul enters with a 6-5 record after a disappointing loss to Duquesne. The Blue Demons hope that a win against the ‘Cats can get them back on track, keeping them over .500 on the season while earning Chicagoland bragging rights.
To defeat the Blue Demons, the ‘Cats must keep DePaul’s three-point percentage low, as most of DePaul’s losses occurred in contests where it has shot poorly from three-point range. With stifling man-to-man or perhaps a triangle-and-two defense, the ‘Cats should force them inside the arc and make the Blue Demons earn their points at the rim. Unlike the Wildcats, who are shooting 31% from three-point range, the Blue Demons are shooting just 36% from three this season. Team scoring leaders Javan Johnson (18.2) and Umoja Gibson (15.2) each shoot 46% and 38% from beyond the arc, respectively.
The ‘Cats should look to push the pace and create opportunities off turnovers. With the Wildcats averaging more forced turnovers than DePaul at nearly 15 per game, they must make sure those earned extra possessions end with quality shots, whether it’s scoring off fast breaks or in a standard half-court set. Any poor shot selection off of a forced turnover simply gives the game away and doesn’t do the team any good. The ‘Cats also need to limit second-chance points for the Blue Demons by boxing out and crashing the boards.
Northwestern must boost its efficiency from the charity stripe as well. So far this season, the ‘Cats have only completed 73% of free throws, compared to the Blue Demons at just shy of 80%. If Northwestern gets into crunch time against DePaul, free throws will dictate the game’s outcome, and the lack of makes will guarantee a loss.
With veteran forward Robbie Beran shooting nearly 38% from three and the exceptional backcourt in Chase Audige and Boo Buie, who leads the team in points and assists, the ‘Cats will need them to display tenacity, perseverance, and clever decision-making to lead the charge and come out on top.
Although the Wildcats’ season is only nine games in, an invigorating win against DePaul would be a big confidence builder for Northwestern as it prepares to start consistent Big Ten play in the new year.
Ryan Choe and John Riker have the call with tipoff set for 1 p.m. CST. Grab a coat and join the Wildcats and the Northwestern community in celebrating Evanston Day in this Windy City showdown.