DePaul (10-12) at (24) Marquette (16-5) (ET)
GAME NOTES: Two teams at opposite ends of the Big East Conference standings meet at the Bradley Center on Saturday afternoon, as the DePaul Blue Demons try their luck against the 24th-ranked Marquette Golden Eagles.
Presently mired in a seven-game losing streak, DePaul has really floundered over the last six weeks or so. The Blue Demons used a seven-game win streak from Nov. 27 to Dec. 22 to stake claim to a 9-3 start, but since then the team has lost nine of 10 games and comes into this fray sporting an overall record of 10-12, and a league ledger of only 1-8.
At 7-2 against conference foes, Marquette is currently tied with Syracuse for first place in the Big East, and the team is hoping to keep pace with the Orange, who will come to the Bradley Center for a pivotal clash later this month. The Golden Eagles won at USF (70-47) in their most recent outing, and they return to Milwaukee for this bout looking to extend what is now a 21-game home winning streak.
Marquette and DePaul are quite familiar with each other, having met a total of 111 times previously. The Golden Eagles own a 67-44 advantage in the series, and they won the most recent encounter with an 89-76 decision on Feb. 6, 2012.
DePaul's problems this season can't really be attributed to its offensive production, as the team ranks third in the Big East in scoring (73.0 ppg). That said, the Blue Demons are the worst 3-point shooting team in the league (.294), and their defensive effort has left quite a bit to be desired as foes are averaging 72.8 ppg behind .439 field goal efficiency, both of which also rank the team last in the conference. Despite the team's relative ineffectiveness, Cleveland Melvin (16.6 ppg, 7.7 rpg) and Brandon Young (16.4 ppg, 4.4 apg) rank seventh and eight, respectively on the league's scoring list. DePaul's most recent setback occurred on Tuesday night at home, as the squad fell to the hot-shooting Villanova Wildcats in what turned out to be a 94-71 final. The game was tied 40-40 at the half, but 'Nova used an eye- popping 28-9 run to take control. At one point, the Wildcats had made good on 22-of-27 field goal attempts in the closing period, shooting nearly 60 percent for the game, which included a 10-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. Conversely, the Blue Demons drained nine treys in converting 44.8 percent of their total shots. Melvin paced the team in defeat with 19 points, while Jamee Crockett added 16, Worrel Clahar had 12 and Young chipped in 11, the latter two each handing out five assists as well.
Despite their favorable record, the Golden Eagles are middling squad at both ends of the court, ranking ninth in the Big East in scoring offense (69.2 ppg) and seventh in scoring defense (61.9 ppg). The team has just two double-digit scorers, as Vander Blue (14.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Davante Gardner (12.0 ppg, 5.3 rpg) lead the way on most nights, although Gardner, who shoots 56.9 percent from the floor, does all his damage coming off the bench. Four others average between 7.0 and 8.7 ppg, giving the squad the kind of balanced effort many great teams possess. Marquette bounced back from a 19-point loss to Louisville three days earlier to hammer South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday. Blue and Todd Mayo both scored 13 points, and Junior Cadougan tacked on 11 to pace the Golden Eagles, who shot 45.1 percent from the field while allowing the Bulls to be a mere 34.7 percent successful, which included a dismal 4-of-20 effort from 3-point range. MU doubled up USF in points from the foul line (18-9), missing only three free throws on the night. The Golden Eagles, who led at halftime 39-16, turned 19 turnovers into 28 points.
Despite the best efforts of Melvin and Young for DePaul, Marquette is the more well-rounded club and it shouldn't have too much trouble keeping its lengthy winning streak in tact.