Eli Cain’s cold spell continued Friday as DePaul fell to Missouri State 69-58 in the consolation game of the Las Vegas Classic. One night after a 72-58 loss to Wyoming where he shot 2-of-18 from the field, Cain made only 1 of his 10 shots against the Bears to finish the tournament 10.7%.
DePaul’s offense was doing fine in the early going as the Blue Demons opened up a 17-13 lead with 8:49 remaining in the first half. Then Missouri State (9-4) rattled off a 16-3 run over the next five minutes to take a commanding lead.
The Bears stretched their lead to 15 points before Demons freshman Devin Gage drained a 3-pointer to cut the halftime deficit to 37-25.
DePaul (7-6) got as close as six points in the second half, but Missouri State had the response each time its lead shrank. The Blue Demons used a big comeback the first time they faced the Bears in November to win at the buzzer, but in this meeting the Bears handled the late-game pressure much better.
As Cain struggled to find a groove on offense, so did the rest of the Blue Demons. They shot 31.6% from the field as senior guard Billy Garrett Jr. led the way with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
With the way non-conference play ended, DePaul’s Big East opener Wednesday at No. 1 Villanova could get quite ugly.
Meanwhile, Missouri State is looking more like a legitimate sleeper threat in the Valley again. After losses a few weeks back to DePaul and Air Force, it appeared the sleeper hype surrounding the Bears may have been overblown. After finishing 8-10 in the conference last year, they were picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll.
Missouri State has now won four of its last five games entering MVC play with the only loss coming to undefeated USC. Right before this stretch, they lost to Horizon League favorite Valparaiso by only three points.
Versatile forward Alize Johnson was terrific against DePaul with 17 points and 12 rebounds, although he also had 5 turnovers. He also showed off his guard skills going coast-to-coast before finding Obediah Church for this alley-oop.
Church finished with 16 points against DePaul while sophomore guard Ryan Kreklow had 11.