Providence defeats DePaul 77-72

SARAH TROTTO (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- Providence coach Ed Cooley admitted his team was unfamiliar with DePaul's reserves.

The Blue Demons were missing key players due to a suspension, injury and illness, so they relied on some reserves to rally against the Friars.

Bryce Cotton scored 28 points to help Providence outlast DePaul 77-72 on Saturday afternoon.

The Friars led by as many as 16 points before DePaul rallied to tie the game with 7 minutes left. The Blue Demons reserves outscored the Friars' bench 35-2, and DePaul freshman R.J. Curington scored a career-high 22 points off the bench.

''We really didn't know a lot about their reserves,'' Cooley said. ''Their reserves played great. They really stepped up. We were fortunate to make some shots late.''

LaDontae Henton added 19 points and Tyler Harris had 18 for Providence (16-6, 6-3 Big East), which has won six of its last seven games.

The Blue Demons (10-12, 2-7) never led in the game and have lost four straight and seven of their last nine.

DePaul was without leading scorer Cleveland Melvin, who missed his second straight game due to a suspension. Melvin was seventh in the Big East in scoring at 16.7 points per game entering Saturday. Point guard Billy Garrett Jr. (illness) and guard Charles McKinney (sprained ankle) also were out for the second straight game.

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said he was unsure if Garrett and McKinney will be available for Monday's game against Georgetown. He said Melvin's suspension is indefinite.

Curington scored in double figures for the second straight game after he went scoreless for the previous six games. He was averaging 2.8 points.

''The thing that was impressive was not only was he shooting the jump shot, but he was driving the ball to the basket, which makes him a tougher cover,'' Purnell said. ''Real pleased with him offensively the last couple games. He along with the rest have got to continue to get better defensively because you're going to continue to play against good guards and good players.''

DePaul tied it at 62 on Edwind McGhee's jumper with 7 minutes remaining.

The Blue Demons had trailed for all but the first 15 seconds of the game. Providence regained the lead on Henton's layup with 6:31 left, and Cotton hit a 3-pointer with 5:38 remaining.

The Blue Demons got to within three on Tommy Hamilton IV's layup with 2:19 left. Henton and Cotton combined for three free throws for a 72-66 lead before Brandon Young's layup cut the lead to 72-68 with 33.3 seconds left. Cotton extended Providence's lead to 76-68 with two more free throws and a dunk with 14.4 seconds remaining.

''Every time they made a run, I just told our guys, 'Stay in the moment. There's a lot of game left. We have a lot of floor experience,''' Cooley said. ''They really didn't have a lot of floor experience in Big East games. Our experience really showed down the stretch with our poise.

''They made two really big runs, and we were fortunate enough to hold on.''

Cotton scored 17 of his points after halftime. He came in second in the Big East in scoring at 20.5 points per game.

''I'm amazed at what he's done, the amount of minutes he's playing, the consistent effort every single night from him,'' Cooley said.

Hamilton added 13 points and Young had 12 for DePaul.

Providence shot 53.2 percent to DePaul's 41.8 percent. The Blue Demons went 8 for 20 from 3-point range.

DePaul pulled to within one on Curington's layup with 18:08 remaining.

Cotton responded with five straight points to give Providence a 47-41 lead. The Friars extended the lead to 57-46.

''That's usually the mindset you have to have with any away game because teams are always going to fight,'' Cotton said. ''They're going to find a way to claw back in the game. We had to persevere.

''(Not getting rattled) comes along with having a lot of experience. We have a few guys who have three, four years here.''

Providence led 42-37 at halftime after shooting 60.7 percent compared to DePaul's 41.4 percent. The Blue Demons kept in the game by shooting 9 of 11 from the free-throw line. DePaul's bench outscored Providence's reserves 22-0.

DePaul went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 32-24 with 3:37 left before halftime.

Forrest Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left before the break to pull DePaul to within 42-37. The Blue Demons intercepted the inbounds pass, but Hamilton's dunk attempt arrived after the buzzer.

''It gave us a real good chance,'' Purnell said. ''I thought we went into halftime with confidence that we sprinted into the half. We had the momentum and I thought it gave us some confidence.''

The Friars improved to 23-8 all-time against DePaul.

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