Illinois State (7-5) hit 11-of-12 free throws and collected three key steals in the final five minutes as they held off a late Blue Demon comeback. Guard Daishon Knight scored 16 points, guard Zach Lofton had 14 and guard Nick Zeisloft added 11 points for Illinois State, which shot just 31.3 percent (20-of-64) from the field but hit 24-of-30 free throws. DePaul, meanwhile, led by as many as seven points in the second half but could not hold it. "(It was) just our lack of focus, we weren't really tough on defense," said Blue Demons guard Brandon Young. "We kind of picked it back up when they had the lead, but we've got to stay tough and stay strong when we have the lead." DePaul (7-5) rallied from a late eight-point deficit and trimmed Illinois State's lead to 66-64 following Billy Garrett's 3-pointer and forward Greg Sequele's free throw with 1:45 showing. Blue Demon guard Charles McKinney stole an inbound pass with 40 seconds left in regulation, but Illinois State guard Paris Lee grabbed the ball back from Garrett and Illinois State regained possession with 17 seconds left. Knight was then fouled as he brought the ball downcourt and hit the second of two free throws for a 67-64 Illinois State lead. Brandon Young's 3-point try with two seconds showing went off the rim. Redbirds center Bobby Hunter closed the scoring with two free throws. "We felt like that we could possibly get this one," Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell said. "There was a situation in the second half where we were up seven or eight and had some momentum attacking and attacking the zone. Then for whatever reason we got sluggish." Garrett had a game-high 18 points, guard Brandon Young had 17 and guard Durrell McDonald added 11 as DePaul had a three-game winning streak snapped. Illinois State also shot just 19.2 percent (5-for-26) from beyond the arc but compensated at the free throw line. "If you would have told me that we were going to be 5-for-26 in 3s and win I would have questioned it," Redbirds coach Dan Muller said. "(But) we got so many free throw attempts and made them and that took away the pressure." The game was the first between the in-state rivals in 17 years and only the second match ever between the two teams at Redbird Arena. DePaul still leads the all-time series 21-4 and is 8-3 in Normal. Young's 3-pointer with 29 seconds left in the first half forced a 34-34 deadlock, but Zeisloft replied with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for a 37-34 Redbird halftime lead. DePaul opened a 47-40 lead early in the second half, thanks, in part, to an 11-0 run over a nearly four-minute span that included six points from Garrett. But the Redbirds chipped away and reclaimed the lead at 56-55 on Knight's 3-pointer with 8:13 left. By the 3:14 mark Illinois State made the eighth of eight straight free throws for a 66-58 advantage, its largest lead of the game. DePaul's Cleveland Melvin, who scored 28 points on Wednesday, fouled out with 3:14 to play with just four points. The Blue Demons close December and their non-conference season on Friday at Northwestern, and they open Big East play on Dec. 31 at Georgetown. Illinois State is idle until opening Missouri Valley play on Jan. 2 at Missouri State. NOTES: G Daishon Knight led the Redbirds with a 14.5-point average coming into the game and has made a 3-pointer in all 12 games this season. ... Coming in, Illinois State led the Missouri Valley and was 85th nationally in 3-pointers per game with eight. The Redbirds were 5-for-26 on Sunday. ... The hosts had just 2 1/2 years of previous Division I experience among three returnees and have the least returning experience of any Division I program. ... DePaul entered Sunday with six straight non-conference road victories. Its last non-conference loss away from home was a 73-51 decision at Indiana State on Dec. 8, 2010. ... Brandon Young needed just six points to pass Terry Davis and is now ninth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,546 points. ... F Jamee Crocket missed his fourth straight game with an ankle injury and remains day-to-day.
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