Men’s basketball loses 80-50 to No. 4 Pittsburgh

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In a season with more negative results than the team would like, one positive of the Blue Demons men’s basketball team has been the play of freshman forward Cleveland Melvin. Entering the game against Pittsburgh, Melvin had scored in double digits for 11 straight games. Saturday against the Panthers marked the 12th.Unfortunately, Melvin was the only double digit scorer for DePaul with 11 points in an 80-50 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon. The loss made it 20 straight in the Big East for the Blue Demons. That would be another negative.

Well aware of Melvin’s impact on a basketball game, Pitt directed much of their defensive attention on the 6′ 8″ forward. Their defense kept him from putting in any easy buckets, and held him to 4-13 shooting from the field.

“We were able to keep some size and quickness on him and not let him beat us off the drive,” said Pittsburgh Head Coach Jamie Dixon. “We didn’t give him many offensive rebounds. He has a great knack of coming up with loose balls and putting them in quickly.”

The Panthers, on a nine-game win streak, improved to 7-0 in the conference this season, their best start to Big East play in program history. Much of their success has been due to their style of play.

“I think they are the most physical team we played this year, because they were doing a good job on the boards,” said Melvin. “They were just more physical and aggressive.”

Head Coach Oliver Purnell agreed.

“There is no question, they were very physical with him,” he said. “They kept him squared up and wouldn’t give him a path to the basket. We were complaining about that, obviously we didn’t get much relief.”

Aside from Pitt’s relentless pressure on Melvin, little leeway was given to the rest of the Blue Demons, shooting a mere 32.3 percent in the second half.

Yet what the final score does not indicate is how close the game was at one point. Coming out of halftime, DePaul looked to front an assault on Pitt to close the gap and catch the Panthers off guard. Jeremiah Kelly hit a three-pointer, soon followed by a Mike Stovall step-back three. DePaul’s 8-0 run was capped with a Stovall layup off a backcourt steal by Mike Bizoukas, cutting Pitt’s lead to single digits at nine.
The crowd was energized and the Blue Demons looked to mount a comeback. Their efforts soon fell short, however, as Pitt stayed composed and went on a 17-3 run of their own, putting the score at 61-40 with seven minutes left.

Gilbert Brown led the Panthers in scoring with 17, while center Gary McGhee did work on the glass all game to finish with 15 rebounds, the third straight time he has grabbed at least 10 boards.

“Pittsburgh is a great team, so deep and so physical,” said coach Purnell. “They’ve got a number of guys who can take over a game at stretches, particularly their perimeter players.”

The Blue Demons are set to travel south as they face USF Thursday night. DePaul will get another chance to nab their first Big East win of the season, granted they take advantage of the positives and do away with the negatives.