ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin says it's often an adventure when his Bearcats play DePaul at Allstate Arena.
"I've been coming here since 1996," he said. "I've got some horror stories."
The Bearcats averted another nightmare Tuesday, holding off a late DePaul rally to secure a 75-70 Big East victory.
The Blue Demons battled back from an 11-point deficit with 1:02 to play, pulling within 73-70 with 7.9 seconds remaining. DePaul junior forward Cleveland Melvin scored six of his career-high 32 points in the late surge.
Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick secured the win by hitting two free throws with 7.2 seconds remaining. He finished with 18 points, and teammate JaQuon Parker added 10.
"People don't realize how big of a win (it is) when you play these types of games," Cronin said. "It was scary."
The Bearcats (15-3, 3-2) played most of the second half without guard Cashmere Wright, who scored a team-high 20 points before leaving with a right knee injury.
Brandon Young had 18 points and Charles McKinney added 10 for the Blue Demons, who lost for the fourth time in five games.
Lack of outside shooting and free-throw opportunities took a toll for DePaul (10-7, 1-3).
"We didn't get a whole lot of production from our perimeter guys in particular," Blue Demons coach Oliver Purnell said. "We struggled to score. (We were) 2-for-14 from (3-point range) and (didn't) go to the free-throw line a whole lot."
DePaul went 6-for-8 on foul shots, while Cincinnati finished 19-for-31.
Melvin said DePaul should have been more competitive.
"It was tough," he said. "We weren't touching the ball. We should have had more touches and keep it out of their top scoring guards' (hands). We weren't playing hard the whole 40 minutes, and that's how they came and got the win."
Wright, the Bearcats' second-leading scorer (14.8 points per game), was injured with 15:12 to go. He appeared to extend his leg while defending just outside the paint to the right of DePaul's basket. He was helped off the court and later rejoined his teammates on the bench, though he didn't re-enter the game.
"He wanted to come back, but obviously I wouldn't let that happen," Cronin said. "You've got to protect athletes from themselves sometimes. We'll see (his condition) when we get home."
Cincinnati led 41-38 at halftime but extended the advantage to double digits in the first 3:41 of the second half. Wright hit a 3-pointer and scored on two drives, and Kilpatrick added another 3-pointer for a 51-38 Bearcats lead.
DePaul employed an effective full court press and forced four Cincinnati turnovers on the way to a 13-2 lead less than four minutes in, including a 9-0 opening run. Melvin had five early points.
The Bearcats shook off the sluggish start with 15 unanswered points from six different players over a 6:19 span to take a 17-15 lead with 8:38 showing.
Cincinnati later opened a 36-30 lead on a Cheikh Mbodj dunk, but Melvin scored twice over next 28 seconds as DePaul forced a 36-36 tie. Wright put the Bearcats ahead for good with a 3-pointer with 1:14 to go before halftime.
Wright closed with 13 first-half points, while Melvin had 15 before the break.
NOTES: Nine NBA scouts were on hand, including former DePaul coach Joey Meyer, who is now working for the Los Angeles Clippers. ... The game was the second of four in a 10-day stretch for Cincinnati that began Saturday at Rutgers and concludes Jan. 21 at Syracuse. ... DePaul had been idle since a 99-78 loss at Connecticut on Jan. 8. ... Young was among five players on the Big East honor roll this week after scoring a career-high 35 points in the Blue Demons' Jan. 8 loss at Connecticut. ... Both teams resume conference play Saturday. DePaul plays host to St. John's, while Marquette plays at Cincinnati.