Melvin leads men's basketball over Lewis 70-63
Published: Saturday, November 5, 2011
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
What a difference a year makes.
In last season's preseason meeting with Lewis University, DePaul couldn't overcome a hot shooting Flyers lineup en route to a 70-68 defeat. This year, with the reigning Big East Rookie of the Year in Cleveland Melvin having emerged as the team's star, the Blue Demons defeated the Flyers 70-63 on Saturday.
In the Blue Demons' first preseason affair, Melvin proved to all in attendance at McGrath-Phillips Arena why he deserved to be named top dog among all conference first-years. The 6-8 sophomore finished with 33 points and eight rebounds, unveiling an improved all-around game and several emphatic dunks for good measure.
Melvin opened the first half with a number of outside shots, finishing 14-25 from the field, including 3-11 from three-point range.
"I was doing a lot with my outside game, shooting the ball well," said Melvin. "I tried to open the defense up more by playing outside."
Melvin had the confidence to take these shots from 18 feet and beyond because of work he did in the offseason.
"I put up a lot of shots in the offseason and worked on my game in the gym," Melvin said. "In the first half, I was really shooting the ball too much, so coach told me to go inside more."
Head coach Oliver Purnell was content with Melvin's offensive decisions on the night, expressing confidence in the team's "go-to player."
"As long as he's shooting a high percentage and giving himself a good balance of shots, inside and out, then that's fine," said Purnell. "He's our leading scorer -- somebody's gotta shoot it."
The Blue Demons certainly did not shy away from hoisting up jumpers early on, though many of them were misguided attempts with plenty of time left on the shot clock.
Purnell said his team took "a gazillion" threes in the first half, without driving or trying to find a better shot by moving the ball around. By doing so, Purnell said they played into Lewis' hands by not making the Flyers' defense work and by taking themselves out of offensive rebounding position.
In the first half, the Blue Demons were concerned with missed shots and making mistakes, forgetting the good things they have been working on in practice. In particular, defense has been one of Purnell's key concerns, which the Blue Demons eventually fell back on to get them going.
"Certainly this early in the year, you're going to be concerned with missing shots you think you should make, when you should really be focused on getting stops," said Purnell. "When we stopped them five, six, seven times in a row, that's when we made our move."
Purnell's squad buckled down in the second half and "started to drive the ball a lot more and had better balance on the offensive end of the floor," according to Purnell. "Some defensive stops and stuff in transition in spurts -- that was the ball game."
Melvin was not the only contributor in the victory, regardless of his impressive point total. Super subs Worrel Clahar, Charles McKinney and Derrell Robertson played terrifically, which Purnell noted was valuable to the team's balance.
"We needed nine or 10 guys out there to plug in all the holes in the boat, because we were tired," said Purnell. "Worrel gives us defensive pressure and causes havoc -- I thought he really got us going defensively. McKinney gives us a tremendous defensive presence, and he's going to be one heck of a defensive player. Getting defensive stops is the key to us being pretty decent."
McKinney may be a sound defensive prospect, but he is also an incredible athlete on a team stacked with them. He showed off his physical gifts with a one-handed putback dunk in the first half, bringing the loud crowd to its feet.
Melvin was not to be outdone, cranking home a few incredible dunks of his own on the night.
When asked who had the better dunk, one of his right-handed tomahawks or McKinney's putback in the first half, Melvin responded with conviction.
"I would say my tomahawk," Melvin said, laughing.
With preseason win number one under their belt, the young and supremely athletic Blue Demons should prove a formidable unit for their opponents to overcome -- providing, of course, they stick to their smart defensive game plan and don't get too bogged down with little missed mistakes.
The men's basketball team takes on UT-Pan American on Nov. 11 at McGrath-Phillips Arena at 8 p.m.