When Tony Stubblefield and his staff put together DePaul’s nonconference schedule, the goal was to have eight games to prepare for the Blue Demons’ Big East opener Dec. 7 at St. John’s.
DePaul (3-3) has just two of those games remaining — starting with Samford’s visit to Chicago on Wednesday — yet Stubblefield and his staff still don’t have a good sense of what they have.
Starting point guard Caleb Murphy, a South Florida transfer, hasn’t played due to a preseason wrist injury. Starting center Nick Ongenda hasn’t played, either, due to a wrist injury suffered the day before DePaul’s opener. Fifth-year center Yor Anei, who stepped in for Ongenda, has missed the last three games with a foot issue.
Their absences were especially felt when DePaul suffered an 82-66 home loss to Texas A&M Friday. The Blue Demons never led as the Aggies started hot and led by double figures most of the way.
It remains to be seen when Stubblefield will get the chance to mesh Murphy’s and Ongenda’s talents with Oklahoma transfer Umoja Gibson (16.3 ppg, 7.0 apg), Iowa State transfer Javan Johnson (15.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and Long Island transfer Eral Penn (13.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg).
“Teams are going to be bigger than us until we get (Ongenda and Anei) back,” Stubblefield said. “We’re going to have to switch defenses and do it in different ways than what we’ve been doing to this point.”
Samford (6-2), which got to play seven of its first eight games at home in Homewood, Ala., presents most of its problems on the perimeter. Junior guard Ques Glover, who started his career at Florida, averages 14.9 points to pace a squad that placed four players on the Southern Conference’s 10-man preseason all-league team.
Former Akron forward Jermaine Marshall (12.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and sixth man Jaden Campbell (11.0 ppg) also average double figures as the Bulldogs rank No. 132 in KenPom.com’s ratings — 36 spots below the Blue Demons — as of Tuesday night.
Samford enters the game on a two-game losing streak by a combined five points to Louisiana Tech and Tennessee Southern.
“DePaul has a lot of great players,” Samford coach Bucky McMillan said. “They are athletic and fast. It doesn’t matter what they do if we don’t play better. It’s time to step it up. Step it up on a consistent basis. It’s going to take âA’ performances and our players must take ownership in that.”