Men’s basketball rallies, falls to Ole Miss 70-68

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ROSEMONT, Ill. — A furious second half rally came up just short for head coach Oliver Purnell and the DePaul Blue Demons as they fell to the Ole Miss Rebels 70-68 in the 2011-12 home debut for DePaul at Allstate Arena.

Down by as many as 17 in the second half, the Blue Demons (4-2) fought back to take the lead with 25 seconds left, but missed free throws and foul trouble doomed the home team down the stretch against Ole Miss (6-1).

Brandon Young led DePaul with 18 points on 5-10 shooting, including the go-ahead layup down the middle of the lane to give the Blue Demons a lead, albeit temporarily. Cleveland Melvin recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds and had the free throw to put DePaul up 68-66.

In a game that saw bad free throw shooting on both sides, DePaul missed their free throws at the worst possible time, despite outshooting Ole Miss 65 to 39 percent. The Blue Demons were 1-5 from the charity stripe in the last minute of the game.

“At that moment in time we just had to make free throws and get stops on defense,” Young said, who was 7-11 from the free throw line.

Turnovers were also troublesome, even though the Blue Demons actually caused more (20 by Ole Miss) than they committed (16). Melvin rebounded the second of two missed free throws from Jeremiah Kelly but had the ball stripped away by Murphy Holloway, who went down the length of the court for the layup and foul to put Ole Miss up by two. Then, with 3.7 seconds left, the Rebels deflected the inbounds pass from Moses Morgan and dove on the loose ball to end the game.

“He threw it away,” Purnell laughed wryly when asked about what happened on the final inbounds play. “The play died before it got up the court.”

Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives to take away from the game. DePaul outrebounded Ole Miss, the best rebounding team in the country, 39-38. The foul trouble for Krys Faber and Derrell Robertson, the only true big men available since Donnavan Kirk sat out with a back injury, led to a much smaller and quicker lineup for the Blue Demons. It worked for the most part in the second half.

With Ole Miss beating up DePaul on the inside and the early foul trouble on the bigs, frustration was apparent on the faces of the Blue Demons, who went into the half down by 14. Then came the smaller lineup, with Melvin at the five, and the team responded to it well. Ole Miss seemed to wear as the second half went on according to Purnell, who still wants the big men to do better.

“You have to adjust to how the refs are calling the game,” he commented. “Get over and take charges instead of trying to always block shots.”

Worrel Clahar provided a nice spark off the bench for DePaul with nine points and three assists.

As tough of a loss as it was for the Blue Demons, Purnell had words for everybody on the team.

“It’s young in the season and we’re still a young team. It’s important for our coaches to keep in mind. But it’s important for our players to understand, you have to grow up and you have to grow up now.”