GAME NOTES: A couple of struggling Big East teams will square off in a conference bout this evening at the Prudential Center, as the Seton Hall Pirates host the Blue Demons of DePaul.
DePaul has dropped two straight and five of its last seven games overall. Most recently, the Blue Demons were dealt an 84-74 home loss by Xavier on Monday. Following this contest, they'll return to Allstate Arena for three of their next four games.
Meanwhile, the Pirates are looking to turn things around after suffering losses in four of their last five outings, including Thursday's 77-76 setback at St. John's. That contest concluded a three-game road trip for the Pirates, who will play five of their next seven at home.
SHU holds a 9-3 edge in the all-time series and has not lost at home to DePaul since 2006.
The Xavier Musketeers stepped on DePaul's home floor earlier this week and absolutely had their way with the Blue Demons. They came out of the gate and shot a sizzling 68 percent from the floor in the first half to build an 18- point halftime lead. Despite forcing 21 turnovers for the game, DePaul was never able to recover as it went on to miss 16 free throws (.579) and was outrebounded by eight boards. Cleveland Melvin led the way with 25 points in the loss, while Billy Garrett scored 18. On the season, Melvin paces the squad in both scoring and rebounding with 16.7 ppg and 6.4 rpg. Brandon Young (14.1 ppg) and Garrett (11.9 ppg) are also averaging double figures.
Seton Hall boasts five double-digit scorers, led by Sterling Gibbs with 15.6 ppg. Brian Oliver (12.8 ppg) has been lethal all season long from beyond the arc, where he is shooting at a 45.3-percent clip (63-of-139). Down low, Eugene Teague (10.5 ppg) is pulling down a team-best 8.9 rebounds per tilt. The Pirates nearly battled all the way back from a 17-point deficit over the final nine minutes of Thursday's game against St. John's, but they could not quite complete the comeback. They shot a solid 52.1 percent for the game but committed 19 turnovers and did not play very well defensively. Gibbs led all scorers with 20 points to go along with six boards, while Oliver scored 19 in the loss.
While it is certainly not too late for either of these teams to make a move up the Big East standings, the time is now if that is to happen. The Pirates are the slightly more balanced team here, although they have not shown much of a penchant for winning tight games this season.
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