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DePaul gets sixth straight victory

The SportsXchange

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Dramatic changes may lie ahead for DePaul basketball, but the Blue Demons still had more immediate business to take care of Sunday.

Brandon Young collected a team-high 15 points -- including four key free throws in the final 1:43, the last two coming with 15 seconds left -- in a 69-64 nonconference victory over Northern Illinois at Allstate Arena.

Jamee Crockett had 14 points and Cleveland Melvin added 12 as DePaul (8-3) pulled away in the final going to claim its sixth straight victory.

Abdel Nader had a game-high 20 points and Akeem Springs added 11 for the 2-7 Huskies, who've dropped two straight and five of their last six.

"I was just really pleased with the way our guys played in the last six minutes," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "We call that winning time and clearly our guys did a good job ... We got all the big rebounds, we handled the ball under pressure, we made our free throws and every one of them was critical."

The victory was the Blue Demons' third in a row over the Huskies.

Sunday's game came a day after DePaul announced it would join seven Catholic, non-football-playing institutions and withdraw from the Big East in 2015 to form a new basketball-focused conference.

Joining DePaul as the core of a new league would be Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova.

Northern Illinois fielded a young starting lineup with three freshmen plus Nader, a sophomore.

DePaul's lineup included one freshman -- guard Durrell McDonald, making his sixth start -- while sophomore center Derrell Robertson Jr. made his second career start and first of the season.

The Blue Demons led through much of the opening half, but couldn't pull away from the pesky Huskies.

DePaul started to establish command when a Crocket slam opened a 22-16 lead. However, Northern Illinois answered with six straight points, including consecutive steals and scores from guard Mike Davis that forced a 22-22 tie with 7:32 remaining.

The Huskies went ahead 24-23 on Aksel Bolin's layup and were up 31-27 with 2:01 showing. But Blue Demon guard Charles McKinney hit two free throws and Young drained a pair of jumpers in an eight-second span to give DePaul a 33-31 lead by halftime.

The Blue Demons padded the lead early in the second half, pulling out to a 40-33 advantage on McDonald's 3-pointer at the 15:09 mark. The Huskies bounced back as Nader scored six points and Davis added a bank shot to force a 49-49 tie with 8:02 remaining.

There were four lead changes and a tie until Crockett's 3-pointer with 4:05 to play gave DePaul the lead for good at 57-56.

Northern Illinois' Springs later hit two 3-pointers in a 14-second span, and the second cut the Blue Demons' lead to 65-64 with 16 seconds showing.

But Young hit two free throws for a 67-64 lead, and DePaul secured the win after Nader missed a 3-point try with 3.4 seconds left.

"They just played harder than us," Young said. "They came out at the beginning fighting hard. We realized as the last second that it's time for us to fight and that's what we did."

Nader played in just his second game after a seven-game suspension for unspecified reasons. But he made a clear impact on Sunday.

"For his second game, he's definitely the scoring threat and our go-to guy on offense," Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery said. "Hopefully his best basketball is still ahead of him."

The Blue Demons return to action at 1 p.m. Saturday against Maryland-Baltimore County at home and close the non-conference part of its schedule Dec. 29 against North Side rival Loyola of Chicago.

Northern Illinois starts a two-game Pacific Northwest swing on Wednesday at Seattle University and plays Saturday at Washington.

NOTES: Sunday's meeting was the 31st between the area programs. DePaul now holds a 25-6 series lead ... Young was honored postgame with the Jay Goedert Award as the game's outstanding player. The award was named after a man who served as an assistant coach at both DePaul and Northern Illinois and died at age 44 in 2004 ... The Huskies had been idle since an 80-73 overtime loss at Milwaukee on Dec. 9 ... DePaul is now 79-34 alltime against current Mid-American Conference members. NIU is its most common MAC foe ... In last week's 78-61 victory at Arizona State, Cleveland Melvin had 12 points on 12/12/12. He also wears that number ... Northern Illinois last beat DePaul on Nov. 28, 2005, a 77-68 decision at NIU's Convocation Center.
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