ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) — DePaul coach Oliver Purnell was feeling the holiday spirit after DePaul’s 69-61 win over visiting Maryland-Baltimore County Saturday.
Asked what he wanted for Christmas, he smiled and said: “A win, and I got it.”
Cleveland Melvin scored 24 points and the Blue Demons (9-3) extended their winning streak to seven games. Melvin, a Baltimore native, reached double digits in scoring for the 26th consecutive game. He added eight rebounds.
“He’s such a terrific runner and he’s at the point of our press so there are a lot of opportunities,” Purnell said. “He’s seeing (double teams) … and there’s going to be more and more of that. He’s a big factor — he blocks shots, rebounds and scores.”
The winning streak marks the longest for DePaul since the Blue Demons won nine straight during the 1993-94 season.
For much of the second half, DePaul held a double-digit lead until six straight points by the Retrievers (2-10) cut the lead to four with 11 minutes to play. DePaul’s Moses Morgan then hit a jumper in the lane and added a free throw for a three-point play.
Jamee Crockett stole the ball and Brandon Young made two free throws, and Young found Melvin for an alley-oop to stretch the lead back to 11. UMBC never came closer than six points after that.
Crockett scored 11 points and Worrel Clahar chipped in 10 points and five assists for DePaul.
Aaron Morgan had 15 points to lead the Retrievers, Ryan Cook scored 13, and Brian Neller had 12 points. But UMBC made just 8 for 17 from the free-throw line and has now lost five straight following a Dec. 1 win against Towson.
“On the road, playing a Big East opponent, we turned the ball over way too much,” UMBC coach Aki Thomas said. “But I did like our effort.”
DePaul used a trapping defense and a deeper bench against UMBC. The Blue Demons’ bench outscored the Retrievers 17-6 and they forced 20 turnovers. DePaul also committed 18 turnovers.
“We know what we got to do to win games,” Melvin said. “We got to pressure the ball. That’s who we are. We’re a pressure team.”
DePaul built its lead by closing the first half on a 15-7 run to take a 38-30 lead at halftime. The spurt was capped by a 3-pointer by Young just ahead of the buzzer.
DePaul plays intra-city rival Loyola on Dec. 29 before beginning Big East Conference play Jan. 2 against Seton Hall.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)