Turnovers cost DePaul men’s basketball in road loss to Penn State

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As DePaul men’s basketball makes the transition under head coach Dave Leitao, there were expected to be growing pains.

In the first road game of the season, the Blue Demons experienced plenty of them Tuesday, losing 68-62 to Penn State. A second half push couldn’t overcome costly turnovers, both early and late.

In some ways, it was the type of game that Leitao had stressed on trying to instill.

The Blue Demons (1-1) were gritty on the defensive end and were able to cut a 10-point deficit in the second half to three, trailing 55-52 with just under three minutes left.

Freshman Eli Cain provided a spark off the bench, showing why Leitao had such high praise for him at a luncheon right before the season opener. Cain had 13 points in 28 minutes and was the source of offense in the second half.

“I like challenges,” Cain said before the season started. “I like challenges. It’s been like that all my life. I’ve always been a guy who has had pressure on me. But I really don’t feed into pressure. I’ve been playing basketball all my life. Leitao has a lot of trust in me and I have a lot of trust in him.”

But the Blue Demons committed some costly turnovers that dug them in a hole to begin the game. DePaul turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes, letting Penn State (2-0) jump out to an 8-2 lead.

And at the end of the game, it cost them too. Senior forward Myke Henry committed a costly travel down just three with 1:49 left. On the next possession, Penn State guard Shep Garner hit a 3-pointer to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 60-54.

DePaul finished the game with 13 turnovers to Penn State’s 10.

For Penn State, forward Brandon Taylor scored 19 of his 22 points in the second half. He also hit a 3-pointer late that proved to be the dagger.

It was DePaul’s first loss ever to Penn State, previously going 6-0. The two teams hadn’t played since the 1984-85 season. It was also the first meeting for DePaul in the Big East-Big Ten series, which will see opponents from the two conferences face off against each other.

Henry led the Blue Demons with 17 points and nine rounds. Junior guard Billy Garrett Jr. had 10 points and four rebounds.

DePaul returns to face South Carolina on Friday at the Virgin Islands Sport and Fitness Center in the U.S. Virgin Islands.