DePaul avoids upset loss at Cleveland State with 73-65 win

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DePaul avoids upset loss at Cleveland State with 73-65 win

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells at his team during their game against Buffalo on Dec. 8.

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells at his team during their game against Buffalo on Dec. 8.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells at his team during their game against Buffalo on Dec. 8.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia

DePaul head coach Dave Leitao yells at his team during their game against Buffalo on Dec. 8.

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Throughout the course of a long college basketball season a team is due to have an ugly win. 

On the road against Cleveland State (4-8), DePaul looked shaky for the entire second half — but clutch free-throw shooting and another big performance from junior forward Paul Reed gave the Blue Demons a 73-65 win over the Vikings. 

DePaul was a 15-point favorite prior to their game, and for the first 20 minutes the Blue Demons played like a team who was just far more talented than their opponent. But like the first two months of the college basketball season has told us, talent will only take you so far. 

The Blue Demons came out in the first half pressuring and attacking the Vikings inside, which gave the visitors a quick 9-0 lead. Cleveland State struggled with turnovers in the first half, coughing up the ball 20 points which led to 18 DePaul points. 

Even though DePaul didn’t shoot the ball at a high clip in the first half, 40.7 percent from the field and 18.2 percent from the 3-point line, their defense was strong enough to keep the Vikings at bay for the first 20 minutes. Junior guard Charlie Moore and Reed combined for 19 points in the first half to give the Blue Demons a 35-21 lead at halftime. 

The second half, however, was a different story. The Vikings came out in the second half a completely different team, pressing DePaul and forcing the Blue Demons to cough up the ball. 

Cleveland State’s head coach Dennis Gates started throwing out different defensive looks, and it gave DePaul a lot of trouble in the second half. As a result, the Vikings forced 15 turnovers in the second half and converted those into 18 points. The Blue Demons finished with 26 turnovers while the home team finished with 29 turnovers. 

With less than nine minutes to play in the game, Cleveland State had come all the way back from being down 14 points in the first half to tie the game at 49. But the Blue Demons responded with their own 10-1 run to increase the lead back to eight, 59-51, with six minutes to play.

Cleveland State, however, kept pressing DePaul and forced the Blue Demons into tough passes that resulted in the Vikings getting the ball back. A 6-0 run in two minutes had the Vikings back within two, 59-57, with four minutes to play in the game. 

But that’s when the Blue Demons did something they have struggled to do all season long: hit free-throws. In the final four minutes of the game, DePaul hit nine free-throws that helped ice the game and give them their 11th win of the season. 

Reed finished the game with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, giving him his ninth double-double of the season. Meanwhile, freshman forward Romeo Weems added 14 points and five rebounds to keep up his stellar play this season. 

Head coach Dave Leitao also got back junior guard Devin Gage, who missed the last six games with an ankle injury, and freshman guard Markese Jacobs — who missed the last game due to a “coaches’ decision.”

With the win, the Blue Demons improve to 11-1 on the season and have one more nonconference game left against Northwestern on Saturday at Wintrust Arena. After their game against the Wildcats, the Blue Demons will get nine days off to prepare for their Big East opener against Seton Hall.