Can DePaul get back to moments like this?

The date was Jan. 18.

The opponent was Xavier, ranked No. 8 in the nation.

The result?

DePaul floated off the floor at Wintrust Arena with a 73-72 win.

"This is what we're supposed to do," head coach Tony Stubblefield said. "This is the reason I came here. This should be the norm."

Back in the glory days of Blue Demons basketball, beating highly-rated opponents was a familiar sight.

Under legendary coach Ray Meyer, DePaul went 27-3 in 1977-78 - beginning a dominant stretch that ran through 1991-92 under Joey Meyer, Ray's son.

With WGN-TV beaming their games across the country, the Blue Demons landed just about any recruit they desired, from local stars like Mark Aguirre and Terry Cummings to national talents like Rod Strickland and Dallas Comegys.

As cable television exploded, DePaul lost its recruiting advantage and the losses soon followed.

Before upsetting Xavier, the Blue Demons' last win over a Top 10 team came in 2020, against No. 5 Butler.

After 11 years at Oregon as an assistant/associate head coach and ace recruiter, Stubblefield arrived at DePaul before the 2021-22 season. Like predecessors Dave Leitao, Oliver Purnell, Jerry Wainwright and Pat Kennedy, he set his sights on propping a stagnant program back up, making the Blue Demons relevant again.

Unfortunately, DePaul is muddling through another forgettable season.

The Xavier win provided a brief flashback to when the Demons advanced to the NCAA Tournament 13 times in 15 years, highlighted by an appearance in the 1979 Final Four.

It also served as a stark reminder the Lincoln Park-based school hasn't participated in March Madness since 2004 and has had only one winning season over the last 15 years.

Barring an unexpected surge, it's going to be 16 straight for a DePaul team that is 9-14 (3-9 in the Big East) heading into Sunday's game at Seton Hall.

The Blue Demons are averaging 73 points per game in conference play, placing them in the middle of the pack.

They are near the bottom in team defense, allowing 75.8 ppg and DePaul is dead last in rebounding.

"We've just got to get better, but we've got to realize what we need to get better at," Stubblefield said. "We've got to take a long look in the mirror and say, 'OK, these are the things we're doing well and these are the things we need to improve on.' The things we have to improve on are on the defensive side of the basketball and rebounding the basketball.

"It's not a points thing, it's the ability to get stops."

Guard Umoja Gibson, an Oklahoma transfer, is the Blue Demons' leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, closely followed by Iowa State transfer Javan Johnson (15.1).

Nick Ongenda, a 6-foot-11 senior center, was expected to anchor DePaul's defense after blocking 52 shots last year.

Ongenda broke his wrist in practice the day before the season tipped off and he's still trying to get back on the floor.

"Nick's a big part of our team and obviously, we do miss him," Stubblefield said. "We just need other guys to step up."

DePaul players and fans celebrate the team's 73-72 upset over No. 8 ranked Xavier in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.