This is a guest post by Tim Balk (@TimBalk). Balk is a freshman at Northwestern University studying journalism, and he writes with The Catch and Shoot’s Jesse Kramer at The Daily Northwestern.
ROSEMONT, Ill. — There was DePaul (12-18, 6-11 Big East), struggling early against No. 23 Butler (21-8, 11-5) at Allstate Arena on Saturday and getting bullied on the boards as coach Oliver Purnell bellowed from the sidelines, imploring his players to get tougher in the paint while their opponent raced out to an 11-4 lead.
For a Blue Demons team that entered the day last in the Big East in rebounding margin, it was an all too familiar sight. The Bulldogs, first in the conference in rebounding margin, dominated on the glass from start to finish in a 67-53 win. Butler finished the first half with a 22-11 advantage that turned into a 36-19 advantage by the final horn.
In a game that the Bulldogs played sloppy basketball at times, the advantage in the rebounding column was crucial.
“The most disappointing thing in the entire game … was our ball handling,” Butler head coach Chris Holtmann said.
Butler turned the ball over 18 times and made only three 3-pointers.
Junior guard Kellen Dunham, who finished the day with 24 points on 6-for-11 shooting, hit two of those threes. Dunham also went 10-for-10 at the free throw line.
“He’s a nightmare to guard,” Purnell said.
As a team, Butler took 27 free throws, making 22.
“Our ability to get to the line was important,” said Holtmann. “It’s what we’ve done most of the year, and that was a really good thing for us.”
The loss was DePaul’s fifth straight. The Blue Demons came back from an early 18-9 deficit and tied the score at 24 with 1:14 left in the first half on a Rashaun Stimage layup, but a late Butler push gave the Bulldogs a 29-24 halftime lead.
DePaul responded with a 14-3 run to take a 38-32 lead with 14:35 left in the second half. Purnell got a technical foul with 14:07 left in the half arguing about a moving screen call, and Butler controlled the game from there.
The Bulldogs went on a 30-5 run following the technical that put the game out of reach for the Blue Demons.
Senior wing Jamee Crocket led DePaul in scoring on Senior Day in the final home game of his career. He scored 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting.
“I’m very disappointed we weren’t able to get a win for our seniors today,” Purnell said. “I thought Jamee Crocket had a really good performance for us.”
Purnell noted that rebounding had a significant impact on the impact on the game.
“I thought our rebounding situation hurt us again,” said Purnell. “We have got to find a way to rebound the ball better so we don’t put ourselves in such a big hole with the deficit on the boards…defensively it’s hard to put together a long stretch of good defense if you don’t rebound the ball.”