Close games that end in losses have become a story all too common to the DePaul Blue Demons as they fell to the Providence Friars 73-71 Saturday, Feb. 25.
“We’re back in the same spot,” said Head Coach Oliver Purnell. “What we need is a win. The guys are playing well enough to win it’s not happening but we’re finding different ways to not to make it happen.”
The game came down to a late run by the Blue Demons lead by Jamee Crockett and Brandon Young with the Friars up 71-64, with Young hitting two free throws on top of being fouled on another basket cutting the lead to 71-69 with 1:30 left.
Crockett’s two made free throws on a drive to the basket tied the game 71 to 71 with 33.5 seconds left.
But then the Friars set up LaDontae Henton for a perfectly timed shot putting them up by two, 73-71 with just 1.7 seconds left on the clock. Young went on to lob a pass down court to Melvin for a shot, but the attempt was off target.
The game was a seesaw affair early on as the Demons and Friars battled for the lead, with no team pulling away significantly until the second half. Moses Morgan led the team in scoring with 13 points while Melvin, Crockett and Young all put forth double-digit scoring effort— Melvin had 10, and Crockett and Young both added 11 apiece.
And, though Melvin had the most rebounds in the game with 12, Donnovan Kirk’s effort on the glass with 11 rebounds kept the Demons close, especially in the first half where he picked up five rebounds, four offensively. Adding Krys Faber’s four and Melvin’s 10 and the rest of the team’s efforts and the Demons outrebounded the Friars 29-24 in the first half.
But as Purnell noted in the press conference afterward, the Demons struggled to gain control of rebounds in the second half. The Friars hit the boards with a vengeance, outrebounding DePaul 48 to 41 on the game. Purnell pointed specifically to a lack of team rebounding in the second half as a difference-maker.
“Donnovan does need to come up with more of those big ones if he’s going to be a big time player, but he didn’t get a lot of help from the gang rebounding standpoint,” said Purnell. “Clearly we got really hurt on the backboards in the second half.”
The Friars were able to stifle Melvin for much of the first half holding him to only four points and keeping all the Blue Demons out of double digits for the half. Crockett led second-half scoring with only seven.
Aside from rebounding, the Blue Demons’ man-to-man defense was able to hold the Friars to a minimum scoring output, but was not enough to make up for the rebounding difference.
The Blue Demons led going in to half 37-35, but the momentum shifted to the Friars early in the half when they went on a 19-4 run. The run was only compounded by a string of fouls committed by the Blue Demons, picking up five in the first four minutes of the game. Kirk thinks the Demons lost sight of their plan which added to the 19-4 run.
“We got away from our defensive mindset. We knew that (Ladonte) Henton, he’s left-handed and we knew we had to force him to the right but we have to stay focused and make sure we know the player’s strength,” said Kirk. “You’ve got to stay mentally strong and stick to your defensive game plan.”
“Trying to win the game you know trying to get a win out though so we can get motivated and win more games, but you know we can’t wait to do that until the last minute to do that we have to do that when the ball tips up,” Young said.
“It hurts but we’ll be back tomorrow,” said Purnell. “We’ll try and try again until we get it right.”
This was the third game in a row that the Demons lost in a close fashion.
“You’ve got to go through these experiences to learn to win,” Purnell said. “I’d like to go through less of them,” he added.
The Blue Demons go on to play the West Virginia Mountaineers on Tuesday. Their final home game is on March 3 against Seton Hall at 5 p.m., and then the team travels to New York City for the Big East Tournament on March 6.