DePaul wins second game of Cancun Challenge 98-67 over Austin Peay

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Thursday’s 71-59 loss to Gardner-Webb served as a bit of a wake-up call for DePaul’s men’s basketball team. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are by no means a better team than the Blue Demons, yet outhustled and outclassed the home team at Allstate Arena en route to their double digit victory.

In its second game of the Cancun Challenge Saturday afternoon, DePaul made sure to not suffer the same fate twice.

With a relentless full court pressure defense and flurry of easy buckets off turnovers, the Blue Demons routed the Austin Peay Governors 98-67 behind 43 combined points from Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young.

“Embarrassing” was how Young described the Blue Demons’ non-conference loss to Gardner-Webb in the opening game of the Cancun Challenge Thursday.

“It was eye-opening, because we know that we can’t come out slacking and lackadaisical,” said Young, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. “We just have to go out and play hard, and can’t take any plays off.”

The change in emotion and focus against Austin Peay was night and day, DePaul’s players communicating on both sides of the floor and cheering hard after every crucial play from the bench.

The Blue Demons were unforgiving on defense in the first half, clogging the Governors’ backcourt and picking off errant passes that often floated right to their hands. Young was especially active, many of his 16 first half points coming off of steals and layups.

DePaul induced Austin Peay into 18 first half turnovers and held the Governors to just 9-23 shooting (39.1 percent).

“I give our guys a lot of credit for the way they bounced back today and the way that they played,” said head coach Oliver Purnell. “The other night, we didn’t show up, we didn’t guard, we didn’t play offense, we had no offense…All of those things I thought were there for us tonight, which was good to see.”

Purnell thought going through growing pains, like early season upsets to inferior teams like Gardner-Webb, can be a valuable learning experience. It’s something that can give the team “perspective, but it’s not something you want to go through again.”

Leading 58-30 after the first half, the Blue Demons came back out onto the court seemingly with even more determination. Two minutes into the second half, DePaul put together a commanding 10-0 run, forcing Austin Peay to call timeout after they weren’t able to inbound the ball.

On offense, Moses Morgan shined, and connected on his fourth three-pointer after the timeout. Morgan finished with 15 points on 4-8 shooting from downtown off the bench, after starting the first two games of the season.

Morgan’s scoring off the bench was a role he “embraced,” according to Purnell, who was pleased with Morgan’s patience and communication on both sides of the ball.

“When you move Moses around, he starts to cause matchup problems. I thought he played well, played within himself, and did a better job defensively.”

After Derrell Robertson converted an and-1 on a pretty hook shot to give the Blue Demons a 76-42 lead, DePaul’s bench and the crowd in attendance all took a collective gasp as Jamee Crockett hit the floor hard and stayed down with an injury.

Crockett rose for a putback dunk but was knocked backwards and landed awkwardly on his right knee, which he clutched on the court in visible pain as the training staff attended to him.

“It’s a scary situation, and I was pretty scared when he went down,” said Purnell. “I don’t know much in terms of how bad it is, but he didn’t seem in near as much pain towards the end of the game. We just hope and pray he’s okay.”

Crockett grabbing his knee was an unnerving sight, as it came just weeks after freshman recruit DeJuan Marrero tore his ACL in practice, causing him to miss the entire 2012-13 season. Missing Crockett for any period of time would be troublesome for the Blue Demons, who value his athleticism and defensive ability in their system.

After Crockett was helped to the bench, gingerly putting as little pressure on his knee as possible, the Blue Demons once again took to the court and finished their business at hand.

With just more than 10 minutes remaining in the game, DePaul holding an 86-52 lead, Melvin was subbed out and sat for the rest of the game. The star forward finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and four steals, a fine body of work against a weaker team.

“Thursday we didn’t come out aggressive like we usually do and we weren’t playing DePaul basketball,” said Young. “Today we set the tone and played hard for 40 minutes and let [Austin Peay] know what DePaul basketball is.

“We just came out with a lot of energy, talking and communicating with each other,” said Young. “We’re brothers out there.”

Having split their first two games of the Cancun Challenge, the Blue Demons next head to Mexico for a Tuesday game against ’11-12 NCAA Tournament qualifier Wichita State. Tip-off in Cancun is scheduled for 6 p.m.

“The competition level for our next couple of games is gonna step up and that’s what we need,” said Purnell. “I think it comes at a good time.”