DePaul (7-4) will begin a four-game road trip this afternoon at Illinois State (6-5). The Blue Demons have won three in a row, but against very weak competition. The Redbirds will be their toughest opponent since Arizona State, which beat them by 22 points at home on Dec. 6.
Last time out, in a win against Houston Baptist, DePaul received a great performance from senior forward Cleveland Melvin. Melvin recorded 28 points and 12 rebounds, but he did not get much help from fellow stars Brandon Young and Billy Garrett Jr.
Young posted 11 points, his worst total since the season opener against Grambling, on mediocre 4-of-10 shooting
Garrett, a freshman, had his worst game of the month with six points on 1-of-10 shooting, but he still had four assists and no turnovers.
Against Illinois State, especially on the road, DePaul will need strong contributions all around.
The Redbirds have some head-scratching losses, which is why their record stands only slightly above .500. But, they have also had some impressive wins.
The Redbirds knocked off No. 25 Dayton earlier in the month, and in November they went to Northwestern and held off a Wildcat comeback in the final minutes to win 68-64.
At home, Illinois State is riding a three-game winning streak. Considering this is a team almost completely made up of new faces, the Redbirds’ early-season losses should be viewed with some flexibility.
Although they were manhandled at Virginia Commonwealth in the season opener, the Redbirds’ next two losses came in close games at home to very good Drexel and Manhattan teams, both ranked highly in The Catch and Shoot’s Mid-Major Rankings.
Since a late-November loss to a Vermont team that nearly upset Duke this season, Illinois State has won five of its last six and has emerged as a potential sleeper in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Blue Demons will need strong performances from Young and Garrett to stop Illinois State coach Dan Muller’s four-guard attack of Daishon Knight, Zach Lofton, Bobby Hunter, and Paris Lee.
The small lineup can put the Redbirds at a disadvantage in the paint and on the boards, but the four-guard lineup has helped their offense tremendously.
Opening tip at Redbird Arena is slated for 3:35 CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN3.