Demons hope re­turn to city, opener vs. Ir­ish help spark mo­men­tum for re­build­ing pro­gram

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - BRIAN SANDALOW Fol­low me on Twit­ter @Bri­anSan­dalow.

No mat­ter what hap­pens, the game Satur­day against No. 14 Notre Dame is a spe­cial one for the DePaul Blue Demons. It will be their first reg­u­lar- sea­son game in the brand- new Win­trust Arena and marks their re­turn to Chicago.

But just throw­ing a party isn’t enough for the Demons. The game is an op­por­tu­nity to beat a tra­di­tional ri­val, make a state­ment against a top 15 team and prove that talk about the changes in the pro­gram isn’t idle.

“I think that’s re­ally im­por­tant,” ju­nior guard Eli Cain said. “We all ob­vi­ously want to per­form well. We want to play well and win the game. We want to show that the change of DePaul’s cul­ture is real. It’s not just talked about. It’s not just some­thing we can go around say­ing in in­ter­views and put on so­cial me­dia. We want to show that that’s the real deal.”

DePaul’s slip from the top of the Chicago sports scene has been well- doc­u­mented. Poor sea­sons and small crowds at cav­ernous All­state Arena in Rose­mont made the Demons an af­ter­thought. Now they’re back in the city with an op­por­tu­nity to get back into the blood­stream.

It’s a chance the Demons don’t want to squan­der by hav­ing an­other rough sea­son. They can build mo­men­tum for a solid sea­son. And a solid sea­son can build mo­men­tum for a pro­gram that sorely needs it.

Cain is keep­ing his eye on the big pic­ture, not just the fes­tiv­i­ties Satur­day.

“We want to show that we can win a lot of games, we can com­pete in the Big East, we can com­pete na­tion­ally,” Cain said. “It’s more than just this one game. I think it’s about the whole sea­son.”

But the game is an early mea­sur­ing stick for the Demons. The Fight­ing Ir­ish have missed the NCAA tour­na­ment just once this decade ( 2014) and have one of the coun­try’s most sta­ble pro­grams.

If the Demons lose con­trol of their emo­tions on an im­por­tant day for their pro­gram and fans, it could turn bad on the score­board. Cain, who av­er­aged 15.6 points per game last sea­son, knows it will be cru­cial for the team to stay calm, even dur­ing such a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion.

“At the end of the day, ev­ery­body’s go­ing to be jit­tery,” Cain said. “We’re go­ing to make our mis- takes, but we’ve got to stay even­keeled as long as we can.”

Sky feel­ing draft

The WNBA draft lottery is Mon­day. The Sky have two lottery picks, one the re­sult of miss­ing the play­offs and the other thanks to a mid­sea­son trade with the At­lanta Dream for their 2018 first- round pick.

“We want to show that the change of DePaul’s cul­ture is real. It’s not just talked about.” — Eli Cain, DePaul ju­nior guard

DePaul’s first reg­u­lar- sea­son game in the new Win­trust Arena is 3 p. m. Satur­day against No. 14 Notre Dame. ARTIST REN­DER­ING

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