It took nearly two years and 24 conference games but DePaul has finally won a Big East game once again. The Blue Demons won on a last-second shot Wednesday night, their first conference win since March 6, 2008. The team they defeated? Marquette. Marquette's next opponent? Syracuse, this Saturday.
The Golden Eagles (11-7, 2-4) are struggling compared to season's past. They've also lost four of their last six contests. Don't be fooled by the DePaul loss into thinking they're no good however. They lost to West Virginia by one on a heart-breaking buzzer-beater and defeated then-No. 12 Georgetown.
So what can the Orange expect on Saturday? The team that beat the Hoyas or the team that lost to DePaul? This team that lost last year's stars Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews ebbs and flows with each game based on who's available and who's stepping up.
Marquette quieted [roster depth] concerns by starting its season on a 6-0 run, beating Xavier and Michigan before posting a 4-5 record over the next nine games. After heartbreaking losses by one and two points, respectively, in its first two Big East matches against West Virginia and Villanova, the Golden Eagles beat Georgetown before posting another close loss at Villanova, again by two points.
"This year it's more of a team thing," Acker said. "Everybody has to do their job in order for us to have success. It's not just based on those three guys (McNeal, Matthews and James), which is a good thing because everybody has to come to work and practice. You can't have any days off with this team because we have a small room of error."
As for the Orange, they learned more about themselves in the past week and a half than ever before. And those lessons will not be lost on Saturday's game. One of the three major lessons learned the D.O. points out...Arinze Onuaku can actually be an asset at the free-throw line.
The Syracuse center is shooting 46 percent at the charity stripe. But lately, his fortune is changing. Working with assistant coach Bernie Fine, Onuaku made 5-of-9 of his free throws at Notre Dame.
"I stepped to the line with confidence," Onuaku said. "I mean, when a game is close like that, I know they are going to try and foul me down the stretch, so I just tried to relax and knock them down."
The charity stripe, normally an adventure for Onuaku, was a scene of redemption in South Bend, Ind. With a raucous crowd waving in his face, the 6-foot-9 center was able to collect himself and hit some tight shots, pounding his chest and pointing to Fine on his way back on defense.
For SU fans, The Shut It Down Movement is really taking over, starting with this one. The first 300 fans to show up at the Dome on Saturday will get a free Shut It Down T-shirt. Originally, fans were encouraged to bring Shut It Down signs to wave during the game as well, a great idea that will only inspire further excitement and generate enthusiasm. But of course the Dome has put the kibosh on that because they don't allow signs. Fun!
The D.O. boys preview the game...