Dave Leitao and DePaul have embraced the move to Wintrust Arena. It is closer to the Lincoln Park campus and features all the modern bells and whistles that Allstate Arena didn’t.
But the Blue Demons know it is on them to make Wintrust Arena a place with a distinct homecourt advantage. That’s not something that happens naturally and only will occur when the Blue Demons (8-8 overall, 1-3 Big East) become a more formidable team regardless of the venue.
“I think in terms of the reality of what a homecourt advantage is, it takes a little time,” Leitao said. ‘‘We’ve got to be the most important part of that, which is to put a team on the floor that becomes very, very difficult to beat.
“When you have that, then all the other things come into play, specifically your rabid crowds and sold-out arenas, your raucous student sections and those things that create the advantage that home teams really use to help them.”
DePaul is 5-4 at Wintrust Arena but its victories have come against Delaware State, Youngstown State, Central Connecticut, Alabama A&M and Miami (Ohio).
“It’s still a work in progress,” Leitao said. “We like where we’re at, but we’re certainly not satisfied, knowing that we’ve got a long way to go still to get to that point where our team and our program and our homecourt advantage becomes something that is really, really good.”
On Friday, DePaul has another chance for its first big home win when it hosts Providence (11-6, 2-2), which has made four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and is coming off a win over highly ranked Xavier. The Blue Demons also will have some momentum after beating St. John’s 91-74 on Saturday. The conference win was a tangible reward after decent performances but near-misses against Xavier and Georgetown.
“I think and I hope that means a lot because we’ve talked a lot about it, just getting over the hump with a lot of those close games that we’ve been a little short with it,’’ Leitao said. ‘‘Psychologically, as much as anything, it gives them a boost and confidence. Hopefully a watershed moment, to know when they get in those moments, what the mindset needs to be and has to continue to be to be successful.”
Fremd graduate Haley Gorecki is making an impact for the Duke women after missing last season and due to injury. A redshirt sophomore, Gorecki has started the past seven games and is averaging 16.9 points over that span.
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