Brandon Young led DePaul with 20 points.
Nov. 9, 2012
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CHICAGO - If DePaul is really going to experience a turnaround season, it will come on the strength of game-changing surges.
That's what happened in the second half of the Blue Demons' 91-59 season-opening victory over UC Riverside Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
A competitive game turned into a rout when Cleveland Melvin (16 points, seven rebounds, five steals), Brandon Young (20 points, five assists, two steals), Charles McKinney, Derrell Robertson, Jr. and Worrell Clahar (eight points, three assists, two steals) ignited a 16-3 run that gave the home team an insurmountable 61-37 lead.
"Our on-the-ball defense was strong and we put better pressure on the ball," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "We disrupted them and starting pick off passes at the top. Our game was really rolling at that point."
Last season the Blue Demons would make a run but often allow the other team to come right back at them.
On Friday night, DePaul built a big lead and never relented.
"It's defense, defense, defense," Young said about putting on the finishing touch. "When we play defense, it gets our offense going. Everybody feeds off each other's defensive intensity."
The Blue Demon bench headed by Clahar, McKinney and Durrell McDonald outscored UC Irvine's reserves 33-10.
"Our bench is a big part of our team," Young said. "We've got Charles, `Nugget' (McDonald), Derrell (Derrell Robertson, Jr.) and everyone else playing well."
A McKinney layup provided DePaul with a 39-28 lead at halftime. Montray Clemons entered the game early in the second half, and it was the first collegiate appearance for the 6-foot, 8-inch forward who missed his entire freshman season last year with an injury.
The center combination of the 6-9 Donnavan Kirk and 6-10 Robertson was effective all night against the Highlanders. Both looked comfortable in their roles after a full season in the Purnell system. They combined for 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"Derrell and Donnavan have to be our two-headed monster for us in the post," Purnell said. "I thought Derrell did a very nice job. He was very active on the glass and plugged up the back of our defense."
DePaul went on a 13-2 run in the middle of the first half as Clahar hit a pair of three-pointers and Young buried one from beyond the arc. Clahar was shooting the long ball with a lot of confidence as DePaul converted 11-of-21 from three-point range.
The Blue Demons jumped out to a 20-12 lead with 11:50 left in the first half. Kirk got off to a solid start, hitting a three and also a jumper inside.
UC Riverside drew within 22-19 when DePaul went on a 9-0 burst that included a three from McDonald and an athletic move by Young for a score.
The Highlanders closed the gap to 34-28 when Young dazzled the crowd with an acrobatic move that turned into a three-point play.
"I was pleased with the whole game," Purnell said. "We were a little slow defensively in the first half and I think our players were a little nervous in the beginning.
"But we found our rhythm and clearly tightened up our rebounding in the second half."
Up next for the Blue Demons is a 7:30 p.m. game on Thursday against Gardner-Webb at Allstate Arena.
- DePaul is 79-11 all-time in season openers
- The Blue Demons have won five straight first games
- DePaul is now 7-1 all-time at McGrath-Phillips Arena
- Three-point streak extended to 580 straight games... last game without a three was Feb. 16, 1993 against UAB at Allstate Arena
- Oliver Purnell started his 25th season as a head coach... it is his third season at DePaul
- The DePaul bench outscored the UCR bench by a 33-10 margin... DePaul also added 37 points off 24 Highlander turnovers
- Derrell Robertson Jr. grabbed a career-best seven boards... previous career-high was five (Feb. 20, 2012 at St. John's)
- With 16 points, Melvin reached double-figures for the 49th time in his career
- It was Brandon Young's 45th career game in double-figures... reached at least 20 points for the 14th time in his career
- Stuart Pirri, Jodan Price, Durrell McDonald, and Montray Clemons all registered their first career points in a Blue Demon unifor