DePaul’s early schedule hasn’t been conducive for a school hoping to end a streak of 10 consecutive losing seasons, although its most recent loss could offer some hope that things are about to get better. The Blue Demons look to snap a three-game losing streak Sunday when they meet Portland in the seventh-place game of the PK80 Invitational Victory Bracket in Portland, Ore.
Unable to win more than 12 games in any season since 2006-07, DePaul has already faced two teams ranked in the top 12 (No. 5 Michigan State, No. 12 Notre Dame) and a Final Four team from a season ago (Oregon). The Blue Demons had an opportunity to knock off one of them Friday, but their offense failed them at the worst time and scored only 10 points over the final three minutes of regulation and overtime combined in an 89-79 setback versus the Ducks. Between Sunday and the start of Big East play on Dec. 27, DePaul will play six of its next seven games against unranked non-Power 5 conference schools, giving third-year coach Dave Leitao a chance to get his team on a roll in his second stint at the school. The Pilots gave Oklahoma a bit of a scare in Friday’s 93-71 setback, briefly trimming a 23-point deficit to five midway through the second half before the Sooners closed out strong.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT PORTLAND (2-3): Freshman point guard JoJo Walker (8.4 points) led the way for the Pilots on Friday with 15 points and six rebounds, but he missed the last 10 minutes of the game after getting hit in the face. Sophomore guard Franklin Porter (team-high 13 points per game) is one of only two players averaging at least 10 points, but the Saint Mary’s transfer has committed exactly five turnovers in each of the team’s three losses. After posting a pair of double-doubles to begin the season, 7-2 senior center Philipp Hartwich (West Coast Conference-best 3.2 blocks) has mostly disappeared over his last three outings, scoring a total of six points.
ABOUT DEPAUL (1-4): Northern Illinois graduate transfer Marin Maric enjoyed his most productive game as a Blue Demon against Oregon, finishing 7-of-11 from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line on his way to a season-high 22 points. Leading scorer Max Strus (13.6 points) is off to a rough start offensively despite scoring exactly 15 points in three of his last four outings - going 6-of-23 from the field and 3-of-16 beyond the arc at this event - and is shooting 34 percent from the field for the season. Free-throw shooting has not been a problem for the Blue Demons, however, as Maric (19-of-19) and Strus (22-of-24) are shooting a combined 95.3 percent from the stripe.
1. DePaul has won all five meetings, but the teams haven’t played each other since 1965.
2. The Pilots are 25-for-55 beyond the arc at this event and rank eighth in Division I in 3-point accuracy (44.8).
3. The Blue Demons have been outscored by 31 points after halftime by Michigan State and Oregon at this event after playing them to within one point before the break.
PREDICTION: DePaul 79, Portland 71