Blue Demons edge NIU Huskies 69-64
Brandon Young, Jamee Crockett and Cleveland Melvin combined for 41 points to give DePaul a barn-burning 69-64 victory over Northern Illinois Sunday at Allstate Arena.
DePaul (8-3) came into this one fresh off an impressive 78-61 victory Wednesday at Arizona State, where Young scored 18 points and had nine assists. On Sunday, the Blue Demons were greeted by a large audience at Allstate, expecting to see DePaul run by the Huskies.
Unfortunately, they had to sit and watch this one all the way through for a definitive result.
After the first two minutes, it was clear that turnovers were going to be a common theme in the game. DePaul may have shot 52 percent in the first half, but it was on only 25 shots. The Blue Demons struggled to create plays in the first half, missing passes and losing the ball to Huskies defenders. Northern Illinois suffered from the same miscommunication, turning the ball over 14 times and taking only 29 shots.
DePaul's key in the game was to drive in and get to the line. Unlike previous games where the Blue Demons lived by the outside shot, DePaul showed a physical element to its scoring. Charles McKinney worked the Huskies' interior defense throughout the contest, finishing with seven points. Melvin scored 12 points, all from around the basket and from the foul line.
The Huskies (2-7) committed 11 fouls in the half, 23 in the game, consistently sending DePaul to the charity stripe. The Blue Demons converted 21-of-25 free throws Sunday, compared to the Huskies 7-of-8. The Blue Demons hit 70 percent (7-10) of their free throws in the first, but continuous miscommunication caused DePaul to go eight minutes without scoring.
The Huskies, led by sophomore Abdel Nader, went on a 7-0 run up to the last seconds of the half, until a Young jumper gave DePaul a slim 33-31 halftime lead.
DePaul and Northern Illinois each shot 33 percent from the floor in the second half until just four minutes remained in the half, when Nader hit three straight shots to give the Huskies a 56-54 lead. A Crockett three and some stellar defense by McKinney kept Nader and the Huskies quiet until the one-minute mark, when Huskies guard Akeem Springs hit consecutive threes to end the Blue Demons' 9 -2 run.
Crockett hit the first threes for the Blue Demons, who shot a poor 4-14 from beyond the arc. Crockett finished with 14 points.
"I was just really pleased with the way our guys played in the last six minutes," said head coach Oliver Purnell. "We call that winning time and clearly our guys did a good job. We got all the big rebounds, we handled the ball under pressure, we made our free throws and every one of them was critical."
Spring's threes kept Northern Illinois alive, but as the clock wound down it was too little too late, as the Blue Demons sank four straight free throws to flush the game.
The Blue Demons' next opponent is Maryland-Baltimore County. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Allstate Arena.
Moses Morgan went scoreless in Sunday's victory.
DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto addressed DePaul's Big East exit following the contest.
"DePaul's excited about the new path ahead,"said Ponsetto, who discussed keeping the Big East's strong basketball tradition together.
"We had to look at all of our options and making this move will be best for our existing non-football schools."
"The move to create a new conference wasn't necessarily based on religion. The league could add non-religious, non-football programs as well. It's still in the process of being decided."
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