DePaul finally set to start season against Western Illinois

NCAA Basketball

Barring the unforeseen, the 11th time appears to be the charm for the DePaul basketball team.

After postponing or canceling 10 previous games due to COVID-19 concerns within its own or opposing programs, the Blue Demons are set to host in-state foe Western Illinois in their season opener Wednesday night.

Right? Right?

“You usually have a little bit of a playbook based on your experience or what you’ve done in the past or what your gut would tell you,” Blue Demons coach Dave Leitao said. “All aspects of what we’ve been through, throw any of that out the window.

“Day by day, you try to manage the moment. There’s literally not a day that goes by without some level of a challenge. It compromises your experience and your wherewithal to be able to make choices on so many abstract situations.”

On paper, DePaul returns three starters, Jaylen Butz, Charlie Moore and Romeo Weems. However, that trio likely will not be intact for the long-awaited opener. While Leitao declined comment Tuesday on which players wouldn’t be available, previous reports have indicated Butz and Weems are away from the program.

Look for Moore to assume an accelerated load for DePaul program with six newcomers. A first-team preseason All-Big East selection, Moore averaged 15.5 points a game last season, which ranked eighth in the conference.

Western Illinois (2-4) recorded its first road victory of the season on Sunday, defeating Tennessee-Martin 81-63 behind four scorers in double figures. Will Carius paced the Leathernecks with a season-best 18 points. Cameron Burrell, a junior college transfer who began his collegiate career with Eastern Illinois, contributed 11 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double with the program.

Leathernecks coach Rob Jeter said the team was “a lot more together,” and hopes Western Illinois can build on that cohesiveness moving forward.

“The next step is to take care of the ball and make free throws,” Jeter said, “but (Sunday) was about having some fun. We’re not doing it 100 percent correct, but we’re making strides.”

Tamell Pearson and Justin Brookens are averaging a team-high 12.3 points a game, with Carius not far behind at 11.3.

Burrell and three teammates, in addition to Jeter and assistant Nick Irvin, hail from Chicago, making Wednesday’s contest a homecoming as Western Illinois concludes a three-game road trip.

The Leathernecks defeated the Blue Demons 72-69 in 1989 in the programs’ lone previous meeting.

–Field Level Media

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