ROSEMONT, Ill. — DePaul got a bit lucky Tuesday in its 77-70 victory against No. 11 Providence. Friars starting wing Jalen Lindsey missed the game due to illness, and midway through the first half starting forward Ben Bentil, the Big East’s leading scorer, injured his ankle and did not play in the second half.
Even so, DePaul needed to lock down NBA prospect Kris Dunn, a 6-foot-4 point guard who leads the Big East in assists and steals while ranking second in scoring behind Bentil.
Dunn never found a rhythm against DePaul’s defensive scheme, which forced him to try scoring over multiple defenders or pass up the basketball. Dunn scored 14 points but shot 5-of-20 from the field. Although he found the open man for eight assists, even having three teammates score in double figures was not enough to avoid an upset on the road.
“He’s a good player, so you’ve got to keep walls around him, got to keep people in his face,” DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. said after the game. “Make other guys beat us. That was the game plan. It worked out for us.”
Providence coach Ed Cooley saw the game unfold the same way.
“They crowded him,” Cooley said. “They made him give the ball up.”
DePaul played man-to-man defense for most of the game with freshman Eli Cain matching up with Dunn. For a few possessions, the Blue Demons changed to a zone, attempting to prevent Dunn from finding a groove.
Although Cain guarded Dunn most often, the game plan relied on several players helping out on the Providence guard to keep him from penetrating the lane.
“We just thought we were going to have more than one set of eyes on him at all times,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. “If he comes off a ball screen, we’ll hang in there with our ball screen defense a little bit longer than we would normally do and just try to limit the amount of time he could make plays going downhill and force him to have to make the next pass.”
With Bentil and Lindsey out, Cooley did not have many options and had to roll with his star.
“He’s earned more than my trust,” Cooley said. “He’s the reason why we’re in the position that we’re in today.”
Providence’s shooters got hot during one stretch in the first half and again late in the second half as the Friars attempted a final comeback. Every possession continued to go through Dunn, who had opposition at the rim nearly every time he got there.
DePaul forward Rashaun Stimage blocked a pair of Dunn layups, and various Blue Demons altered several others.
“He always had three defenders on him,” DePaul forward Myke Henry said.