top of page

DePaul reaches new low with 82-74 season opening loss to Purdue Fort Wayne

Rock bottom. Step back. Embarrassing.

You can describe DePaul’s 82-74 upset season opening loss to Purdue Fort Wayne any way you would like.

One thing is for certain, however, it’s time for DePaul to start asking hard questions about the direction its flagship program is heading.

In his third year at the helm, head coach Tony Stubblefield suffered his worst loss that has brought new questions into the fold about his ability to turnaround a struggling program.

By all the possible metrics, Purdue Fort Wayne is considered as a cupcake game for DePaul. Some people would call it a “buy game” — where a high-major program pays a smaller program to play them at their home stadium.

Those games usually take place in the first couple of games of the season. It’s an easy way to stack up some wins before the schedule toughens up and build some chemistry with the players.

Sounds easy enough. Just beat the team you are expected to beat. Even DePaul can’t mess this up. It had been six years since DePaul last lost its season opener.

DePaul did not adhere to that protocol. Instead, they laid an egg against a program that has never played in the NCAA Tournament and has three all-time victories against high-major programs.

As bad as DePaul’s men’s basketball program has been over the last decade, this is the worst team DePaul lost to since 2009, according to KenPom. Purdue Fort Wayne was ranked 300th on KenPom entering Tuesday night, which is only one spot above Florida Gulf Coast — who beat the Blue Demons 14 years ago.

Even Dave Leitao didn’t suffer such an embarrassing loss.

“Like I told our guys in the locker room, I take full responsibility for this,” Stubblefield said after the game. “Because this is my job to have the guys come out, execute better from an offensive standpoint and have more fight defensively.”

From an offensive standpoint, DePaul looked like a team that never even practiced together. A team trying to fit in eight new players looked lost and chaotic with the ball. The Blue Demons committed 22 turnovers, including 14 in the first half, which led to 26 points for the visitors.

“We’ve got to get better very soon, quickly,” Stubblefield said. “And, again, just limiting our turnovers and stop being so careless with the basketball.”

In terms of a fight on the defensive end that was needed to win, there was none. Several DePaul players had trouble staying in front of their man all night long. Sophomore guard Elijah Fisher got beat off the dribble multiple times Tuesday night.

Even with how poor the Blue Demons played in the first half — shooting only 40.9 percent from the field and trailing 41-33 — they still managed to hold a 68-62 lead with less than four minutes left in the game.

All DePaul needed to do was get a couple of stops and it could escape with a win. Not pretty, but still a win.

Instead, the Blue Demons folded like a cheap tent and gave up a 20-6 run to end the game.

A group of fans behind the DePaul bench started chanting “Fire Tony!” as it became clear Purdue Fort Wayne was going to pull off the upset. Senior guard Jalen Terry — who missed Tuesday night’s game with an ankle injury — turned to those fans and tried to quiet them down to no avail.

“It starts in our next practice and just bouncing back,” Jeremiah Oden said.

Oden was one of the few bright spots for the Blue Demons. He finished the game with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Da’Sean Nelson, who decided to return to DePaul in the spring, got into foul trouble early and only played four minutes in the first half. With Nelson missing out, Purdue Fort Wayne went on an 11-0 run and grabbed control of the game.

In the second half, however, Nelson played all 20 minutes and scored nine points, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists. Most of the offense ran through Nelson, which saw DePaul generate better shots and shot 55.2 percent from the field.

In year three of the Stubblefield era, it’s pretty clear DePaul relies heavily on certain individuals to bail them out offensively. From Javon Freeman-Liberty to Umoja Gibson and now Nelson, the Blue Demons’ offense swims or sinks if those players have good nights.

“It definitely wasn't a step in the right direction,” Stubblefield said regarding Tuesday’s game. “I take full responsibility for that. We will get it right.”

The belief is there from Stubblefield. Three years of evidence, however, doesn’t inspire much confidence that he can turn this around.

bottom of page