Sat, 22 Jan 2022

DePaul and Loyola Chicago renew 'Red Line Rivalry'

Field Level Media
04 Dec 2021, 05:40 GMT+10

Separated by six miles along the Chicago Transit Authority's Red Line, Catholic schools DePaul and Loyola Chicago would seem to be natural rivals. But when they meet Saturday afternoon, it will be their first clash since 2012.

If this nonconference matchup between DePaul (6-0) and visiting Loyola (6-2) plays out like it shapes up on paper, there may be more reason for the schools to make it a regular date.

Under Tony Stubblefield, an 11-year assistant at Oregon who is in his first season as a head coach, DePaul is off to a perfect start, with four wins over directional schools and a big victory over Rutgers when it had just seven players available.

Javon Freeman-Liberty has keyed the Blue Demons, averaging 23.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. The former Valparaiso star has embraced the up-tempo style of his new coach as DePaul averages 88.5 points per game, fifth most in Division I.

"He has a lot of energy. It never stops," Freeman-Liberty said of Stubblefield. "It's been very fun with him."

DePaul has already topped last year's win total when it went 5-14 and finished last in the Big East for the fifth straight year under Dave Leitao. Also fueling the start have been David Jones (16.7 points, 8.2 rebounds) and Minnesota transfer Brandon Johnson (12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds).

In a way, DePaul is trying to mimic the success of Loyola, which reached the Sweet 16 last year and has four starters back for 30-year-old first-year coach Drew Valentine.

Defensive beast Lucas Williamson (11.9 points, 5.3 rebounds) leads the Ramblers' balanced attack that features six players averaging at least 8.8 points.

On Saturday at DePaul, Williamson will try to slow the roll of Freeman-Liberty, his former teammate at Chicago's Whitney Young High.

"This is super exciting for me. I have a whole bunch of friends that have already hit me up saying, 'Hey I'm going to be at the game,'" Williamson said. "It's an unbelievable opportunity."

--Field Level Media

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