Brandon Young scored 21 points, and a renewed defensive effort in the second half allowed DePaul to overcome a 14-point deficit Wednesday and beat Chicago State 74-64.
On the day Chicago State announced it will join the Western Athletic Conference in 2013, the Cougars nearly delivered an upset win against their crosstown foe. Chicago State (2-8) shot 53 percent in the first half, including 4 of 8 on 3-point attempts, to help build a 44-30 halftime lead.
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DePaul (5-3) couldn't have played much worse in the first half. The Blue Demons committed 12 turnovers -- finishing with 21 for the game -- and shot only 30 percent from the field.
Chicago State went cold and put up an ugly shooting performance in the second half. The Cougars went 5 of 26 from the field and did not make a shot until Matt Ross' layup with 11:39 remaining.
A 9-0 DePaul run gave the Blue Demons an 18-10 lead, but they failed to capitalize and extend their lead to double digits. The Cougars took advantage. During the final 8:49 of the first half, Chicago State went on a 30-6 run and at one point outscored DePaul 17-2. Chicago State switched into and out of a 2-3 zone, slowing down DePaul and frustrating the guards.
But DePaul's defensive pressure disrupted Chicago State in the second half. The Blue Demons extended their man-to-man defense to beyond the 3-point line, cutting down the Cougars guards' penetration and drive-and-dish plays. Turnovers followed for Chicago State. Mistakes and forced passes resulted in 13 second-half turnovers, which quickly erased the Cougars' lead.
Although the Blue Demons finished with only seven second-chance points, they dominated the boards and outrebounded Chicago State 48-30, including 20 offensive rebounds. Hitting the glass aggressively extended possessions and gave ample looks to DePaul scorers Young and Cleveland Melvin (12 points), though the Blue Demons struggled behind the arc all game, making only 4 of 15 attempts.
Ross scored 20 points to lead Chicago State, which proved it's capable of competing with teams in elite conferences. That didn't eliminate the sting of losing a winnable game to a Big East foe.
DePaul chipped away at Chicago State's lead in the second half, eventually going ahead 51-50 on Melvin's two free throws with 8:22 left. The Cougars briefly reclaimed the lead with 6 minutes remaining after Ross knocked down a jumper, but the Blue Demons closed the game on a 16-6 run.