This was supposed to be a tune-up for the actual games in Cancun, an easy victory for DePaul. Don't tell that to the Runnin' Bulldogs.
DePaul (1-1) was upset by Gardner Webb (2-2) Thursday night at the All State Arena, losing 71-59 in the first round of the Cancun Challenge. The Runnin' Bulldogs showed no signs of fatigue, despite losing to Lipscomb at home last night. Guard Max Landis led Gardner Webb with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Forward Kevin Hartley also contributed in the victory, with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Cleveland Melvin led DePaul with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Brandon Young added 10 points. They were the only Blue Demons who scored in double-figures Thursday night.
DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell was clearly upset with his team's performance Thursday night. "My hat goes off to Gardner Webb," Purnell said. "They deserved to win the game tonight. Clearly, we didn't show up tonight. We can think of a lot of excuses but the bottom line is, no matter what the circumstances are, we have a ball game. We got to be mentally tough. We never sustained any level of consistency offensively."
DePaul's poor rebounding and off night shooting from three and the free throw line led to its loss. Gardner Webb outrebounded DePaul 44-31 in the game. Additionally, the Runnin' Bulldogs hauled in 18 offensive rebounds, which led to numerous second chance opportunities.
The Blue Demons only converted 2 of 13 three point attempts, and went a dismal 0 for 9 on three's in the first half. They also only made 61.1% of their free throws for the game, and only made 2 of 6 in the first half. These shooting numbers, plus Gardner Webb's strong night on the glass are the reason DePaul lost. Gardner Webb got its first lead with 17:57 in the game, and never relinquished it.
The first half wasn't pretty for DePaul, as their first basket came at the 16:37 mark courtesy of Melvin. Gardner Webb wasn't impressive either in the first half, but they did just enough to take a 32-24 lead at the half. Gardner Webb shot 40% from the field, DePaul shot 39.3%. But Gardner Webb made two three point field goals and eight free throws, compared to zero and two for DePaul.
In the second half, DePaul looked to feed Melvin early and often in the post. And he delivered, much like in the second half against UC Riverside this past Saturday. Melvin scored seven quick points in the first two minutes and eleven seconds into the second half, and it appeared that DePaul was about to seize momentum. But Gardner Webb always seemed to have an answer, thwarting any potential DePaul comeback.
The two teams exchanged buckets the entire second half, Gardner Webb scored 37, DePaul 35. Landis really played well in the latter portion of the game, ensuring Gardner Webb didn't surrender its lead. He scored 11 points in the second half, including 3 for 3 from the three point line.
DePaul plays its next Cancun Challenge game Saturday afternoon against Austin Peay (1-1).