DePaul-Seton Hall Preview

Seton Hall has learned that life in the Top 25 can be difficult if it isn't totally prepared for each challenge that awaits.

Looking to bounce back from their latest defeat, the No. 24 Pirates face another tough task while trying to remain undefeated at home all-time against an improved DePaul team Thursday night.

Since returning to the poll for the first time in three years Jan. 5, Seton Hall (13-4, 3-2 Big East) has dropped two of three.

''We went from the hunter to the hunted,'' point guard Sterling Gibbs said after the Pirates' nine-game home winning streak ended with a 79-75 overtime loss to Butler on Jan. 13 in their most recent contest.

"I think we have to realize that being ranked and a top-notch team, what (difficulty) comes along with it.''

Gibbs hit six 3-pointers and finished with 30 points before fouling out and guard Khadeen Carrington added 20, but the Pirates shot 39.1 percent and were outrebounded for a fourth straight contest.

Though the Pirates are among the conference leaders with 36.8 rebounds a contest, they're second-to-last with an average of 35.2 allowed after yielding 45 to Butler.

"That's been an Achilles' heel of ours," coach Kevin Willard said.

Gibbs has averaged 21.0 points in five games but four teammates have scored in double figures over the last four, during which the Pirates have shot 39.6 percent. Gibbs, Carrington and forward Angel Delgado combined for 62 points against Butler.

''I think we're all getting a little reliant on Sterling," Willard said. "The other guys need to be a little more assertive and create things either for themselves or for other guys at times.''

With guard Isaiah Whitehead (11.9 points per game) still out with a foot injury, fellow freshman Carrington has made strides, averaging 12.7 points in six games after scoring 6.7 per contest in the first 11.

Though Seton Hall is 6-0 at home against DePaul (10-9, 4-2), the Blue Demons exceeded their conference win total from 2013-14 by overcoming an 11-point deficit in Sunday's 71-67 overtime home victory over St. John's.

Guard Billy Garrett Jr. scored a season-high 20 and hit all 13 free throws for the Blue Demons, who overcame 35.3 percent shooting and 22 turnovers by going 25 of 29 from the line and holding the Red Storm to 37.7 percent from the field.

DePaul is seventh in the 10-team Big East with a 44.3 shooting percentage - 0.1 better than Seton Hall - but first from the free-throw line at 76.0. Garrett is first at 87.0 percent on foul shots.

"Hit your free throws, you have a great chance to win the game," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.

The Pirates are shooting a league-low 64.8 percent from the line.

Though Garrett has scored 36 points in the last two games at home, he's averaged 9.0 in five road contests this season.

An illness kept Garrett out of an 86-69 loss at Seton Hall on Jan. 25, but he had 15 points as the Demons snapped a 10-game league skid with a 65-60 home win over the Pirates on Feb. 25.

DePaul fell 81-64 at then-No. 8 Villanova on Jan. 10 for its 49th straight loss to a ranked opponent and 24th in a row on the road.

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