Southern Miss overcomes early deficit in victory over Depaul

Paul LaTour, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

ROSEMONT -- The Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles had an answer every time the DePaul Blue Demons seemed ready to steal momentum.
The Golden Eagles overcame an early double-digit deficit and withstood several second-half charges to earn a 75-68 victory over the Blue Demons on Wednesday in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at Allstate Arena.
Forward Aaron Brown finished with 13 points to lead four Southern Miss players finishing in double figures. Swingman Michael Craig and forward Daveon Boardingham each scored 12 points, while guard Chip Armelin added 10 and six rebounds for the Golden Eagles (2-0).
"A big strength of our team is our depth," Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall said. "We have 10 legitimate guys, and they're all fairly even. That's going to be our deal all season long. We're going to have a 10-man rotation."
The balanced attack offset a potent one-two punch from DePaul seniors guard Brandon Young and forward Cleveland Melvin. Young finished with a game-high 23 points, while Melvin added 16 for the Blue Demons (1-1).
DePaul, which led by 12 in the first half, scored six points in 46 seconds to take a 40-37 lead early in the second half. Center Tommy Hamilton drained a 3-pointer and Young completed a three-point play as the Blue Demons' briefly overcame a 35-30 halftime deficit.
The Golden Eagles didn't take long to regain their lead, eventually stretching it to 53-42 at 11:48 on a pair of free throws by guard Neil Watson that capped a nine-point run.
"Basketball is just like a fight; you can't get hit and just stand there," Brown said. "Coach told us to keep going back at them. When they were making their runs we were just staying together as a team."
Trailing 55-44, DePaul again converted a 3-pointer and three-point play to spark a rally. A thunderous dunk by guard Charles McKinney cut the deficit to 57-54 at 8:30.
DePaul got even closer at 7:45 when Young scored on a layup while being fouled. His free throw made it 59-57.
But the Blue Demons never got closer the rest of the way.
A 14-2 run gave DePaul early control, but the Golden Eagles responded with a 16-0 run of their own to take a 35-30 lead at halftime.
"We stopped defending. It's pretty much (that) simple," said DePaul freshman guard Billy Garrett, who came off the bench to score five points and added a game-high eight assists. "We defended the first seven, eight minutes and went up (12), then our defense stopped defending. They went on their run and we kept shooting threes and we went on a drought."
Melvin broke a 5-5 tie with a 3-pointer from the left, sparking the Blue Demons' run. They increased their lead to 11-5 when Young completed a conventional three-point play four minutes into the game.
Garrett followed with DePaul's third 3-pointer of the early stages. The Golden Eagles snapped the 9-0 run when Craig made a short jumper.
But the Blue Demons rattled off the next five points to grab a 19-7 lead at 13:06.
Southern Miss chipped away, pulling within six points at 21-15 following three consecutive baskets by Watson, guard Jerrold Brooks and Craig.
After the deficit stretched to 11 points, the Golden Eagles exploded with a 16-0 run to snatch a 31-26 lead. A three-point play by guard Deonte Houston gave them their first lead, 29-26 with three minutes left in the half.
A free throw by McKinney ended the Golden Eagles' stretch, but the Blue Demons went more than six minutes without a field goal until forward Jamee Crockett drained a 3-pointer with 1:05 left in the half.
Although both teams finished with 11 offensive rebounds, DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said the timing of them was the difference.
"If I had to put my finger on one thing that really cost us the ball game, it was our inability to block out and get the critical rebound," Purnell said. "In the first half, that allowed them to really get started."
NOTES: DePaul is 317-151 (.677) all-time at Allstate Arena, entering Wednesday's game. ... The Blue Demons are 5-4 against the Golden Eagles. All nine meetings came when DePaul was a member of Conference USA. Their last matchup came Jan. 29, 2005. ... After making all five of his 3-point attempts in DePaul's opener, F Cleveland Melvin missed on his first attempt Wednesday.