Give credit to sophomores Jamee Crockett and Charles McKinney and freshman Durrell McDonald for stepping up and helping pull DePaul out of a big hole Wednesday night at the Allstate Arena.
But the Blue Demons typically soar or swoon with Cleveland Melvin, and their star junior forward was off his game again in the Big East opener against Seton Hall.
Melvin crashed to the floor and hit his head in DePaul’s previous game, a difficult 69-61 loss to city rival Loyola on Saturday.
He was back in the starting lineup against Seton Hall with two stitches next to his left eye, but Melvin didn’t appear to be playing with a clear head.
Melvin was on the floor for 21 minutes in the Blue Demons’ 73-72 loss to the Pirates, but the Big East’s eighth-leading scorer was held to 6 points on 3-of-11 shooting.
After he missed all 5 of his shots to start the second half, Melvin spent the rest of the game on the bench.
“It was a decision I had to make,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “He was kind of listless out there, just kind of forcing things. You saw that in the (Loyola) game, listless and not playing well.”
The Demons (9-5 overall, 0-1 in the Big East) all were guilty of poor play in the first half as Seton Hall (12-2, 1-0) rolled out to a 40—32 lead at the break.
The Pirates are one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the conference, and they were 7-for-12 behind the line in the opening half.
“We’re a better team than they are, but they were shooting 3s in the first half and they were going in,” Crockett said.
Seton Hall cooled down in the second half, while DePaul started finding cracks in the Pirates’ zone defense.
Crockett (16 points), Brandon Young (15), McDonald (12) and McKinney (10) picked up the offensive slack left by Melvin, and the Blue Demons finally took the lead at 54-52 when Young pulled down a defensive rebound and dribbled the length of the court, scoring on a layup while drawing a foul.
Young converted the free throw to make it 55-52, and it was a back-and-forth scrum the rest of the way.
“We has our chances, clearly,” Purnell said. “I thought in the second half, a couple things that really hurt us was our shooting from the free-throw line and our inability to clear the defensive boards.”
Trailing 73-72 late in the game, Crockett missed an 18-foot shot from the top of the key. DePaul got the ball back with .2 seconds left, but Donnavan Kirk couldn’t get a final shot off.
“It felt good, but it didn’t fall,” Crockett said of his final shot. “I missed it.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.