CHICAGO -- DePaul coach Oliver Purnell got an early Christmas present as his Blue Demons ran their winning streak to seven with a 69-61 victory over Maryland-Baltimore County on Saturday. And if the packaging and contents were a little sloppy, Purnell let that slide as Cleveland Melvin led the way with 24 points in the first meeting between the programs. "It wasn't one of our better performances but I thought we played well in the stretch -- in the last seven or eight minutes of the game in order to kind of put things away," Purnell said. Now 9-3, DePaul's streak is the longest since 1993-94 when it won nine straight. Jamee Crockett scored 11 points while Worrel Clahar added 10. Melvin's production, meanwhile, included a 9 of 14 free-throw performance while his teammates collectively went 25 of 37. Aaron Morgan led Maryland-Baltimore County (2-10) with 15 points, Ryan Cook had 13 and Brian Neller added 12. The Retrievers, who never got closer than six points in the second half, have lost five straight and nine of their last 10. Blue Demons pressure helped force the Retrievers into 20 turnovers, which DePaul converted into 23 points. "DePaul presses the whole game, so you know you're going to turn the ball over some," Maryland-Baltimore County coach Aki Thomas said. "They're going to speed you up a little bit, but you have to take care of the basketball." The Blue Demons led 38-30 after a first half that saw 20 collective turnovers. DePaul then kept Maryland-Baltimore County at arm's length through much of the second half. The Retrievers never got closer than six points in the game's last seven minutes, but Thomas was pleased that his team didn't fold. "We were right with them all the way to the end," Thomas said. "A couple turnovers here and there, I thought we turned the ball over way too much ... but I did like the effort." The Blue Demons broke away from a 23-23 tie and took control with seven unanswered points, part of a 15-7 run through the final 6:23 of the half. Young closed the first 20 minutes with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Melvin had 10 first half points but also turned the ball over four times. Crockett also had 10 points. DePaul closed with 18 turnovers and shot 24 of 61 from the field (39.3 percent) for the game. Maryland-Baltimore County was also 20 of 49 from the field (40.8 percent). The Retrievers close the year next Saturday at Mt. St. Mary, then open America East play on Jan. 2 at Albany. The Blue Demons host Loyola next Saturday in the 56th meeting of the North Side rival. DePaul begins Big East play on Jan. 2 at home against Seton Hall. Notes: DePaul's starting lineup had more of a Baltimore flavor than visiting Maryland-Baltimore County. Blue Demons starters Melvin and Brandon Young both hail from the Maryland city ... The Blue Demons are among two Big East teams on the Retrievers schedule. Maryland-Baltimore County dropped a 79-46 decision on Nov. 26 at Marquette ... DePaul is 12-0 against the current America East members. Albany was the last conference opponent the Demons faced, a 74-64 victory in the opening round of the 2009 NIT.
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