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December 5, 2012

DePaul avoids upset, beats Chicago State 74-64

It was a tale of two halves and two large runs for both DePaul and Chicago State Wednesday night, with one school dominating the first half and the other finishing strong. Chicago State played an impressive first half, but DePaul eventually closed out the game and avoided the upset.

DePaul (5-3) defeated Chicago State (2-8) 74-64 at the Jones Convocation Center, with Brandon Young leading the way with 21 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Cleveland Melvin added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and reserve guard Worrel Clahar stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Chicago State had its way with DePaul in the first half en route to a 44-30 lead at intermission. It appeared as if the Cougars were going to shock the Blue Demons and pull off an epic upset. Juniors Matt Ross and Quinton Pippen (nephew of Scottie Pippen) torched DePaul, which had no answer for the junior duo in the first half. Ross had 11 points and 7 rebounds, and Pippen had 12 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting from the field. Additionally, DePaul's offense struggled mightily.

As a team, DePaul shot 30.3% from the field in the first half, and committed 12 turnovers. In comparison, Chicago State shot 52.9% from the field and only committed 6 turnovers. DePaul's press wasn't creating turnovers, and Chicago State's 2-3 zone limited DePaul's offense. Chicago State closed out the first half on an 18 to 4 run, punctuated by a Pippen three at the buzzer. But DePaul got out of its funk, and dominated the second half, as Chicago State struggled. DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said he challenged his team to improve during halftime, and the Blue Demon's responded to their coach's pleas.

The Blue Demons started the second half with a simple goal: attack the basket, get to the free throw line. And DePaul accomplished this goal thanks to Young. The guard got to the lane at will and drew contact, which led to free throws. DePaul opened up the second half on a 15 to 2 run to cut Chicago State's lead to one. Young scored 11 second half points, and his play rubbed off on his teammates. As a team, DePaul made 18 of 23 free throws in the second half alone, and finished 26 of 33 for the game. Chicago State mustered 20 points total in the second half.

DePaul's defense improved immensely in the second half, as they limited Chicago State to 19.2% shooting from the field in the second half. Purnell attributed his team's improved defense to its full court press. "Defensively, I thought the cumulative effect of the press really got to their legs," Purnell said. "It really helped our terrific field goal percentage on defense."

Pippen was severely limited in the second half, as he only scored two points. He missed all four of his field goal attempts. After only committing six turnovers in the first half, Chicago State had 13 turnovers in the second half, which led to their demise.

DePaul plays its next game on Sunday against Wisconsin Milwaukee (2-6) at the All State Arena.

Jamee Crockett returned to action Wednesday night in a reserve role. He had seven points and three rebounds in 15 minutes. He wore a brace on his right knee, and wasn't timid despite the injury. He threw down an emphatic dunk in the second half, and was fouled on another dunk attempt in the first half.

Worrel Clahar had his best game of the season, and it was much needed considering Durrell McDonald's off night. Clahar was active throughout the entire game, and nabbed a personal best nine rebounds.

Chicago State head coach Tracy Dildy said that DePaul and the Cougars will play each other again next season, and hopes to have an annual game against DePaul every season if possible.



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