ROSEMONT, Ill. -- DePaul's first appearance of the season at Allstate Arena was a dud.
Visiting Gardner-Webb outperformed the Blue Demons on the way to a 71-59 victory Thursday in a Cancun Challenge opening-round game.
"Clearly we didn't show up tonight," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "I can point to a whole lot of things, but those are excuses. In my opinion, there's no excuse. We've got to be tougher, we've got to be better and take more pride."
Guard Max Landis scored a game-high 20 points for the Running' Bulldogs (2-2) in the teams' first meeting. Forward Kevin Hartley
had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Gardner-Webb, while Donta Harper added 13 points.
Cleveland Melvin paced the Blue Demons (1-1) with 18 points and eight rebounds, and Brandon Young added 10 points.
Gardner-Webb led by as many as 19 points in the second half before DePaul closed the gap in the final minutes.
"We made some shots early, and I think our zone bothered them a little bit, and that gave us some confidence and momentum," Runnin' Bulldogs coach Chris Holtmann said. "We played with a real loose, aggressive approach."
The Blue Demons never led in the contest, as they shot 2-for-13 on 3 pointers and got outrebounded 44-31. Improved second-half shooting left DePaul with a slight edge over Gardner-Webb from the field at 42.6 percent (23 of 54), compared with the Runnin' Bulldogs' 41.9 percent rate (26 of 62).
Gardner-Webb used an edge in free-throw shooting to open a 34-24 halftime lead.
The Blue Demons shot just 11 of 28 (39 percent) from the field and missed all nine of their 3-point tries before the break. They made only two of six first-half free throws.
The Runnin' Bulldogs made just 12 of 30 first-half shots (40 percent), including just two of eight 3-pointers, but they went 8-for-12 from the foul line during the first 20 minutes.
DePaul forced one tie but never led in the opening half.
"We never sustained any level of consistency offensively, defensively in our half-court, with our pressure," Purnell said. "We need to play consistently as a team. We need to be a fast, quick team, and I don't think any of those things were there tonight."
Hartley and Landis hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help Gardner-Webb take a 14-10 lead in the first eight minutes.
With less than eight minutes to go before halftime, DePaul was 0-for-8 on 3-pointers while Gardner-Webb opened a 23-14 advantage.
Hartley and Harper each scored nine points before intermission. No Blue Demon scored more than five points in the opening half.
NOTES: Thursday's game was DePaul's third against a Big South opponent. ... The contest was DePaul's first of two Cancun Challenge opening-round games this week. The event, now in its fifth year, features an eight-team field with each playing two games in the United States and a pair of final-round games in Mexico. DePaul continues Cancun Challenge play Saturday against Austin Peay at Allstate Arena, then travels to Mexico to meet Wichita State next week. ... Gardner-Webb's tourney trail includes a trip to Iowa on Saturday and then a matchup next week against Howard at Cancun's Moon Palace Resort ... ... Thirteen Big East teams, including DePaul, were unbeaten entering play Thursday. The conference's only teams with losses were Rutgers (1-1) and USF (0-1) ... DePaul forward Peter Ryckbosch, a walk-on freshman, saw his first action. He played three minutes and didn't score.
- Sports & Recreation