Blue Demons Prevail Over Lewis 84-79 in Exhibition Opener
Oct. 29, 2013
CHICAGO – You might say DePaul opened to mixed reviews Tuesday night in a season-opening exhibition game at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
The 84-79 victory over Lewis gave DePaul coach Oliver Purnell an opportunity to assess the seven new faces on his roster and to begin formulating a strategy of mixing and matching their strengths to those of his returning players.
He watched as 6-9 Greg Sequele blended in well with a smaller lineup that Purnell used for his patented pressure defense.
And there was prize recruit Billy Garrett Jr. finishing his first college game with 12 points and four assists combined with a heady floor game and solid decision-making that will help steady DePaul in close games.
Brandon Young led the way with a game-high 22 points while Cleveland Melvin filled up the box score with 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals and four blocks. Charles McKinney contributed 11 points and five rebounds.
“We had Billy and Brandon in there a lot during crunch time along with Charles,” Purnell said. “I thought those three played well. Cleve also played well. We have to get Jamee Crockett going.
“Our big lineup (Hamilton, Marcius, Melvin up front), I really like it a lot. We’re introducing two new guys (Hamilton and Marcius) to the system, and we’ve got to get accustomed to where they are and where they want the ball.
“Our big guys rebounded the ball well. Now, we’ve got to get our perimeter players to rebound as well and start asserting themselves as athletes.”
It was approaching crunch time when a Hamilton tip-in and a Melvin basket inside put DePaul up 71-62. Jeff Jarosz hit two foul shots to cut the Blue Demon lead to seven, and Ryan Jackson’s free throw made it 71-65 with 2:20 left.
Melvin was fouled on a put-back attempt with 1:43 on the clock and converted both free throws. Jackson matched that with a pair of his own at the 1:32 mark. Two seconds later, Garrett buried two foul shots.
Melvin’s breakaway slam made it a 77-67 DePaul advantage until Julian Lewis hit a three-pointer with 59 seconds left. McKinney hit two critical free throws with 27 seconds left to put DePaul ahead 82-74. A foul shot by Melvin and one by Young held off Lewis at the end.
“It’s the first time under the lights for our guys.” Purnell said. “They didn’t get a chance to get any rhythm going. I used 12 guys in the first half and 13 in the second half.”
Young tried to singlehandedly ignite the DePaul attack, scoring four consecutive baskets to open the second half after the Blue Demons trailed 37-34 at the break.
It was more than three minutes before someone not named Brandon Young scored as Julian Lewis put back an offensive rebound for the Flyers. A McKinney score inside provided a 47-41 lead four minutes into the second half as DePaul opened with a 13-4 run.
Lewis came within 49-46 when Garrett sparked an 11-2 burst for a 60-48 Blue Demon lead. Garrett seemed to be in his element at point guard, directing the offense and taking shots at opportune moments. That allowed Young to attack from the off-guard slot.
The Flyers closed to 62-56 when Garrett’s score and a Melvin three-point play restored a 67-56 lead.
Starting the game with the bigger, more physical lineup, Purnell elected to play a half-court defense. After the first five minutes, Purnell went with a smaller, quicker lineup and activated the full-court, pressure defense.
What did the DePaul coach take away from the exhibition opener?
“That we have to play hard to be successful,” Purnell said. “Our energy has to be way up. We have the ability to go nine or 10 deep with tremendous energy, and that becomes a strength.
“When you don’t play hard like we did in the first half, that becomes a weakness.”
DePaul returns to McGrath-Phillips arena for a 3 p.m. regular-season opener against Grambling State on Nov. 9.