GAME NOTES: The DePaul Blue Demons will be representing their conference in their first true road game of the season, as they head to Alabama to square off with the Auburn Tigers as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.
DePaul improved to 3-3 with an 85-78 win over Fairfield at home on Tuesday. The victory came after logging a 1-3 mark in the Cancun Classic, as the Blue Demons defeated Austin Peay and suffered a setback to Gardner-Webb in Rosemont before enduring pair of losses to Wichita State and Western Kentucky in the final stages of the event in Mexico. DePaul has lost its last eight games versus SEC opponents. Coach Oliver Purnell is in his third season with the program and is 0-2 in his career versus the Tigers. So far this season, the Blue Demons are scoring 76 ppg while allowing opponents to net 70 ppg.
The Tigers are coming off a disappointing 78-72 double-overtime loss at home to the previously winless Rhode Island Rams. The setback was the team's third in a row and dropped its record to 2-4. Auburn also struggled in an early tournament as it went just 1-3 in the Charleston Classic with losses to Murray State, Dayton and Boston College. Its only win in the event came against host school, the College of Charleston. Coach Tony Barbee has yet to lead AU to a winning record in his two seasons at the helm, but it finished just one game shy of that mark with a 15-16 overall record in 2011-12. The Tigers have some work to do to get back to .500, as they are averaging just 59.8 ppg while allowing 63.5 ppg.
This bout marks the first meeting between these two schools on the hardwood.
The Blue Demons were gambling on defense their last time out, fortunately it led to a win over Fairfield. Despite allowing the Stags to shoot 51.8 percent from the field, including 7-of-17 from three-point range, DePaul managed to stay in front for the majority of the contest by forcing 19 turnovers, claiming a narrow 34-31 edge in the rebounding battle, and knocking down 50.7 percent of its field goal attempts. Cleveland Melvin led the way by tying his career-high with 30 points. Melvin has now scored at least 20 points in two straight games and at least 10 in 20 consecutive contests. Charles McKinney added a career-best 11 points and Donnavan Kirk came up just short of a double-double with totals of 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. Melvin paces the team with 20.5 points and 8.3 boards per contest. Brandon Young adds 16.3 ppg.
Auburn held the advantage in its recent game versus Rhode Island, but it could not shut the door after leading by 11 points in the opening half. It also held a three-point lead in the closing seconds of the first overtime period before allowing a Rams' 3-pointer in the closing seconds. In the contest, URI knocked down 13-of-26 attempts from beyond the arc in the contest. The Tigers were unable to overcome 19 turnovers, which the Rams turned into 30 points. Leading scorer Frankie Sullivan was ice cold, finishing with just seven points after a 1-of-9 performance from beyond the arc. The senior guard is scoring 18.3 ppg. With Sullivan failing to convert versus URI, Jordan Price led the team with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor. Noel Johnson chipped in 13 points and Rob Chubb grabbed nine rebounds.
The Tigers are not going to compete with anyone if Sullivan remains in a slump. Auburn relies on its senior guard for too much and it showed with the high turnover total versus URI. The Blue Demons swarming defense is going to cause a high amount of miscues, but Sullivan should get more open looks this time around. However, Melvin is going to continue to thrive at the offensive end and Young will keep the Tigers scrambling on defense.
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