UConn shoots lights out in second half, buries DePaul 81-69

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DePaul’s student section cheers and jeers were incessant for nearly 40 minutes, but its men’s basketball team’s solid play lasted only a half.

 After taking a 37-34 into halftime, DePaul succumbed to the UConn Huskies’ talented backcourt and hot shooting, losing 81-69 Saturday night at Allstate Arena.

 “Clearly a tale of two halves. In the first half, we made it reasonably difficult on UConn,” said head coach Oliver Purnell. “That needed to be our recipe for winning the game, and clearly was a different deal totally in the second half.”

 In the second half, the quickness and shooting touch of UConn’s backcourt tandem of Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier proved to be close to unstoppable for DePaul. In a stretch that lasted just over three minutes, the Huskies ignited a 13-0 run led by the two guards, a barrage that ending up being the difference.

 “In the stretch when we got down, we lost guys and gave them open shots, and it was no longer hard for them,” said Purnell. “Then we started to rush offensively – they had a couple blocked shots that put them in transition. That stretch was definitely our undoing.”

 With DePaul leading 47-46 at the 15-minute mark, UConn started its run with a Napier three. The Huskies’ scoring wasn’t halted until Donnavan Kirk hit a jumper to make the deficit 59-49.

 Napier and Boatright were stellar throughout. Napier finished with a game-high 28 points (8-13 FG, 5-7 3FG) and seven rebounds, while Boatright added 17 points (7-11 FG) and six assists. Omar Calhoun had a statline of 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.

 DePaul’s rotations on defense were sluggish throughout the second half, expanding the gap between defender and shooter for much more difficult contests. UConn shot 70.8 percent in the second half, including 5-8 from downtown.

 “They’re a really good perimeter shooting team and they got it going,” said Purnell. “When a team is shooting 70 percent against you with wide open shots and some layups … your offense can’t keep pace with that.”

 “We just weren’t coming together and sticking with the gameplan,” said DePaul forward Cleveland Melvin. “We let them come in the second half and take the lead, and we couldn’t stop their run. They kept scoring and scoring, and that’s how they won the game.”

 Melvin led the Blue Demons in scoring with 20 points and added 10 rebounds. Brandon Young finished with 13 points and six assists, while Worrel Clahar scored 10 points and seven assists.

 “The Big East is always very physical, very fast,” said Melvin. “We just gotta stay with that energy that we had in the first half, continue to rebound and do a better job on defense.”

 The first half saw DePaul aggressively patrol the perimeter, picking off errant passes and creating scoring chances off of the turnovers. The Blue Demons stole the ball seven times, scoring 10 points off giveaways.

 “The Big East is always very physical, very fast,” said Melvin. “We just gotta stay with that energy that we had in the first half, continue to rebound and do a better job on defense.”

 “In the stretch when we got down, we lost guys and gave them open shots, and it was no longer hard for them,” said Purnell. “Then we started to rush offensively – they had a couple blocked shots that put them in transition. That stretch was definitely our undoing.”

 The men’s team next faces off against Louisville at home, Feb. 27. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Allstate Arena.