DePaul Overcomes Slow Start to Beat CMU 100-86 in CBI First Round
By: Ethan Hennessy
On Wednesday night DePaul did something they had not done in a dozen years. That was take the basketball court for a postseason tournament game. DePaul at 15-15 going into the game accepted a bid to the CBI Tournament. They faced a tough first round test against a Central Michigan squad led by head coach Keno Davis who finished fifth in a really good year for the Mid American Conference at 23-11. The Chippewas were making their fourth postseason appearance in the past five seasons. Last year in the collegeinsider.com postseason tournament they won road games at Fort Wayne and Wofford before falling to Liberty.
Dave Lietao said “the first game in any tournament that is not the big dance is an opportunity, and teams have to figure out psychologically if they want to play”
It took DePaul over three minutes to get on the scoreboard, and they fell behind early finding themselves on the wrong side of a 19-7 score. After a small DePaul run, and barrage of threes from CMU the gap still remained at 12 points with 9:30 in the first half. Dave Lietao said after the game he was not shocked that CMU went on a run given both teams are good offensively. He said they went on runs and we went on runs, but once they understood what they were able to do offensively, and how do it they were able to get back into it. DePaul also switched to zone at that point, and was able to go on a run.
DePaul took a four point advantage going into halftime 46-42. Out of the break DePaul led the rest of the way, and was able to hit the triple digit mark winning the game 100-86. Pantelis Xidias even got a taste of postseason basketball as he subbed in to dribble out the last 31 seconds of the game. The victorious Blue Demons were led in scoring by senior Max Strus who put up 33 points and 6 rebounds. On the Central Michigan side David DiLeo led the way for the Chippewas with 20 points on 5-12 shooting from three.
The game was held at DePaul’s on campus facility McGrath Phillips Arena. This proved to be an advantage for the Blue Demons as the fans and students turned out despite it being finals week for students. The fact that the game was also at the on campus arena provided a louder and more intimate environment which assisted DePaul through the highs and lows of the game. Coach Lietao said “Our fanbase today was phenomenal they turned out in droves, and they were loud.”
Afterwards I asked Dave Lietao about what this game meant for the DePaul program with it being the first time in the postseason since 2007, and being able to win this game. He responded “The two things that come to mind are we have three seniors that I want to make sure we honor the right way… they have been very instrumental to our basketball program in a lot more ways than show up on the basketball court. They have been tremendous representatives of our basketball program and this university, so to give them the opportunity to potentially finish at the end of this as a champion is something I would really really love to do for them. And then for our program, and the rest of our guys it is a great learning and growing experience.” Eli Cain and Max Strus echoed the sentiments from their coach saying playing in the postseason was special and fun, and they are glad they were given the opportunity to be in this tournament.
When asked how important it is to have these games at home Max Strus said “It is extremely important. It is good for our fanbase to see us play in the postseason. They haven’t seen that in so long… the energy really helped, and I hope we are able to play here for the rest of the postseason”.
Central Michigan’s season comes to an end at 23-12 while DePaul advances to face the Longwood Lancers out of the Big South Conference on Monday nigh back at McGrath Phillips Arena in the second round of the CBI Tournament.