Seniors lead DePaul in first road victory

SHARE Seniors lead DePaul in first road victory
SHARE Seniors lead DePaul in first road victory

MILWAUKEE – DePaul coach Oliver Purnell knew his team’s first road game would be a challenge Tuesday against a Milwaukee Panther team on a four-game win streak.

“We knew they were playing well and feeling good about themselves,’’ Purnell said. “We had to emphasize this would be a battle with them in their first home game.’’

For a second straight game, the Blue Demons answered the challenge with a strong second half, building a lead of as many as 14 points before the final 80-71 victory at U.S. Cellular Arena.

“This was a real solid road win for us,’’ said Purnell, who again saw his seniors lead the way in the final 20 minutes.

Cleveland Melvin (20 points, nine rebounds) and Brandon Young (19 points, seven rebounds, six assists) led the way as the Demons (3-1) pulled away from the Panthers (4-2) after a 32-32 tie at intermission.

Young hit a field goal and Melvin a three-pointer in the opening two minutes of the second half and DePaul never trailed again.

“We wanted to hit them first and get the momentum going,’’ Young said.

DePaul used an 11-0 run in the second half, had three key steals and closed hitting eight of their last 11 free throws.

“That’s just team defense,’’ Young said. “We talk about team machine—that’s what playing together is about.’’

Melvin and Young combined for 33 of their team’s 61 shot attempts, with Melvin hitting four of six three-point attempts.

“You have to have that senior leadership to win these games,’’ Purnell said. “They understand things will happen in a game. For them to have the correct body language and say the right things gives their team confidence—and the ability to knock down shots matters, too.’’

The Panthers were playing their fourth game in five days after winning three games over the weekend in the Northern Illinois University Invitational in DeKalb.

“We asked these young men to do something very difficult in playing so many games in a short turn-around,’’ Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said. “We got tired about the 10 minutes mark and you could see it.

“Melvin and Young made some big time plays, but I told our young men not to be discouraged. It was a tall order and we knew that.’’

Purnell admitted factoring in Milwaukee’s fatigue.

“We tried to go smaller in the second half with a quicker lineup, and I felt they’d need size to beat us,’’ he said. “That said, I was afraid they’d get hot from the outside again [after hitting six three pointers in the first half.]’’

Instead, the Panthers hit only one more three and got out-rebounded 15-9 in the second half.

Sophomore Matt Tiby led the Panthers with 20 points and 11 rebounds, with senior forward Kyle Kelm adding 16 points off the bench.

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