DePaul uses ball movement to create offensive spark against St. John’s

Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com

ROSEMONT, Ill. — Ever since a great performance Feb. 2 against Providence, DePaul’s offense had completely stunted. The Blue Demons scored 0.88 points per possession in four games since then entering Thursday’s game against St. John’s.

DePaul (9-18, 3-12 Big East) exploded Thursday for 1.15 points per possession in an 83-75 win over St. John’s, which boasts the nation’s 83rd-most efficient defense, per KenPom. The Blue Demons torched the Red Storm for a 70.3 effective field goal percentage in the first 22 minutes, building a 50-29 lead.

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Forward Myke Henry hands off to guard Billy Garrett Jr. during Thursday’s win against St. John’s. (Photo: Jesse Kramer / thecatchandshoot.com)

Although the Blue Demons shot 33.3 percent from the field in the final 18 minutes, they also had an unbelievable 95.2 free throw rate during that stretch. That number is skewed by St. John’s intentionally fouling in the final minute. But even without those six foul shots at the end, DePaul shot 14 free throws compared to 21 field goals in the final 18 minutes.

Whether the result was layups, dunks or free throws, DePaul consistently got to the rim for easy buckets.

“We were getting layups, 17-of-21 in the paint in the first half,” junior point guard Billy Garrett Jr. said when asked about the team’s high field goal percentage. “When you’re getting easy shots, then the threes start to fall.”

DePaul got those easy shots as a result of terrific ball movement, which was a main focus in the game plan entering the matchup.

“St. John’s, they don’t really play the gaps. They stick to their man,” said Garrett, who recorded his third career double-double wit 19 points and 10 assists. “We knew if we moved the ball effectively we could get to the rim whenever we wanted. If you are able to throw it back and swing the ball to the other side of the court quick enough, then you get a guy on a late closeout and get to the basket.”

DePaul executed, and the result was not only offense that looked pretty, but also offense that worked.

Coach Dave Leitao said the ball movement was what allowed four DePaul players to score at least 10 points for one of the team’s most balanced efforts of the season. Thursday was the third time in Big East play, and the first this month, where the Blue Demons had four guys reach double figures.

Leitao was not the only person in the building impressed by the team’s sharing of the basketball.

“Man, that’s great ball movement,” former DePaul and NBA great Mark Aguirre told the coach at halftime.

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