What mattered more Tuesday than the final score of DePaul’s 84-79 exhibition victory over Lewis was the look of the new Blue Demons who did it as coach Oliver Purnell begins his fourth season.
This is a crucial season for Purnell in his so far elusive pursuit of a turn-around for the program. But he may have found some of what he has been looking for in four newcomers–freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr., freshman center Tommy Hamilton IV, junior forward Greg Sequele and senior forward Sandy Marcius.
All four contributed in a game Purnell admitted was not in a normal rhythm because of his plan to try different combinations of players.
It was senior guard Brandon Young who led all scorers with 22 points–but it wasn’t until the start of the second half when he scored eight straight points paired with Garrett Jr. that the Blue Demons got in sync.
“That’s just Billy having a great IQ as a freshman,” said Young after his team rebounded from a 37-34 halftime deficit. “I don’t mind playing off him. He’s coachable and listens and he likes to work hard.”
Garrett had 12 points and four of his team’s 10 assists with no turnovers.
Marcius and Hamilton started, with Marcius getting 10 rebounds and Hamilton seven while scoring five. Sequele played off the bench, scoring four and stealing two with two rebounds in 22 minutes.
“I said at half time we have to start with energy before any fundamentals at all,” Purnell said. “Over all I was pleased with the game. It was the first time under the lights for some of the guys. Guys have to learn and get comfortable.
“I thought Tommy Hamilton looked fairly comfortable [despite going 1-6 at the free throw line]. Obviously Billy Garrett looked comfortable.
“We easily could have learned some things the hard way,” he said of how well Lewis performed. “But the guys pulled it out.”
Figuring out combinations remains Purnell’s task, he admitted. “I didn’t give them a chance to get into any rhythm using 12 guys in the first half and 13 in the second. Our pressing team looked pretty good, with Sequele at the four [forward]. The big guys I like a lot. We have to keep working with that.
“We have two new guys in the system and we have to get comfortable with where they want the ball. But they rebounded the ball decently.”
For Division II Lewis coming off a 19-win season, the game was the first of three exhibition games against Chicago’s Division 1 teams, with Loyola and Northwestern also on the schedule.
“Lewis gives us a good test,” Purnell said. “I like playing those guys in exhibition games because they’re fundamentally sound.”
The Flyers gave Purnell “a lot of tape to watch” as the Blue Demons prepare for their season opener next Saturday against Grambling State.
“I learned we have to play hard to be successful,” Purnell said. “We have the ability to go nine or ten deep, so if you play hard, depth can be an advantage. But it isn’t if you don’t play hard.”