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Blue Demons Fall to Southern Miss 75-68 in Allstate Arena Opener
Brandon Young had 23 points and six rebounds in DePaul's 75-68 loss to Southern Miss Wednesday night.

Brandon Young had 23 points and six rebounds in DePaul's 75-68 loss to Southern Miss Wednesday night.

Nov. 13, 2013

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ROSEMONT, Ill. - While all the new guys are learning to play together, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell put the onus on senior leaders Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin to take command of the Blue Demons.

That was Purnell’s take after DePaul dropped a 75-68 decision to Southern Miss in Wednesday night’s Allstate Arena season opener and CBE Hall of Fame Classic opener.

Even though Young finished with a game-high 23 points along with six rebounds and Melvin came away with 16 points, Purnell wants them to be at their best in critical moments.

“We missed some crucial rebounds at the end and made turnovers in critical times,” Purnell said. “It’s only the second game for a lot of the young guys and that showed.

“That’s when Brandon and Cleve have got to do even more. Brandon (six turnovers) has to take better care of the ball and Cleve (two rebounds) has to rebound better even though we have him at the three spot.”

Both teams took turns hitting big shots and making big plays down the stretch. Aaron Brown hit a three-pointer for Southern Miss and Melvin hit one from distance for DePaul. Jeremiah Eason converted a three-point play for the visiting team.

A Michael Craig basket put the Golden Eagles ahead 67-62 with just over four minutes left in the game. Boardingham hit two foul shots with 2:32 left for a seven-point lead. Young’s driving bank shot with 2:03 to go cut the deficit to 69-64.

After a Southern Miss score, Billy Garrett Jr. hit a pair of free throws. Aaron Brown’s foul shot made it 72-66 with 1:21 showing on the clock.

“We had an early (12-point) lead in the first half and we eased up and let them back in the game,” Young said. “After we fell behind late in the second half, we tried to pick it up in the last eight minutes. That doesn’t work against a good team like that.

“We can’t bow our heads because it’s just one game. But we need to take better shots and I have to take better care of the ball.”

DePaul (1-1) opened the second half on a 10-2 run and took a 40-37 lead. Back came Southern Miss (2-0) with a 16-2 burst in reclaiming a 53-42 lead.

Purnell was searching for the right combination of players to give his team a winning momentum. The DePaul coach tried using a big lineup, a quick lineup along with both man-to-man and zone defenses. The Blue Demons applied their pressure defense for the first time in the middle of the second half.

“It came down to stops, shot selection and rebounding,” said Garrett, who had five points, eight assists and two steals. “That’s why Southern Miss went on that (16-2) run in the second half.

“We stopped defending, we stopped rebounding and kept shooting threes early in the shot clock. Some of that comes from not playing with each other. It’s fixable. We really have to get tougher.”

Trailing by 11, DePaul went to their full-court press and promptly produced a 10-2 run. Greg Sequele’s steal led to a McKinney dunk as the home team drew within three. After the Golden Eagles went ahead 59-54, Young responded with a three-point play.

Purnell will drive home a point to his players in practices this week.

“When we started missing shots and the lid got tight, it affected our defense,” Purnell said. “They have to learn that’s when you’ve got to dig in even more and play even better on defense.”

The Blue Demons asserted themselves at the outset of their Allstate Arena opener. They took off on an early 14-2 run and pulled ahead 19-7 on a Charles McKinney basket.

Southern Miss, which won 27 games last year and advanced to the NIT quarterfinals, scored six in a row to get back in the game. A Melvin basket and two Tommy Hamilton IV free throws restored a 10-point advantage.

DePaul led by 11 when the Golden Eagles scored 16 unanswered points take a 31-26 lead with less than three minutes to halftime. A Jamee Crockett three-pointer brought the Blue Demons within 33-30 until a pair of Boardingham foul shots provided Southern Miss with a 35-30 lead at halftime.

DePaul returns to Allstate Arena for a 1 p.m. game on Saturday against Wright State.

Notes: The meeting was the 10th all-time between the two schools, but first since 2005... the series is now tied 5-5... Young recorded the 23rd game of his career with 20 or more points... Young also moved into DePaul’s all-time top 15 in scoring, finishing the game in 14th with 1,408 points... he now trails Rod Strickland by 40 points for 13th all-time... Melvin finished in double figures for the 77th time in his career.