"It's a miracle, Clarence!"
Those are the words that have to be spewing out of Oliver Purnell's mouth after his DePaul Blue Demons snapped a ten-game losing streak with a 65-60 win over Seton Hall Tuesday night.
Tuesday marked a number of milestones for DePaul (11-18, 3-13 BIG East). The Blue Demons won their third BIG East game for the first time in two years, and most importantly, they won their first game since Cleveland Melvin officially left the program earlier this month.
DePaul is dead in the water at the bottom of the BIG East, with a double-overtime win at Butler being the only thing separating DePaul from another last-place finish (for the moment). Their win over the Pirates didn't open any eyes to Blue Demon basketball, but it definitely proved one thing: DePaul may not be good, but they'll never give up.
DePaul is arguably the Barry Horowitz of college basketball (note: if you don't know who Barry Horowitz is, the WWE Network is free until Monday. Go watch Summerslam 1995). DePaul is that team powerhouses have written off on their schedule as an automatic W at the beginning of every conference season for the last half-decade. To use a wrestling term, they are the jobbers of the BIG East. While Villanova has reigned supreme a la Triple H, and Creighton has become the hot shot new kid on the block reminiscent of Brock Lesnar, for 10 years, the Blue Demons have played the role of the Brooklyn Brawler without much change to their role in the BIG East.
But every now and then, DePaul will pull a rabbit out of their hat and ink out a conference win. They are rare, but every time the Demons win a BIG East game, it's a cause for celebration in Lincoln Park. The half-empty Allstate Arena should storm the court and, in unison, chant "YES! YES! YES!"
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Jake Thomas scored a career-high 22 points and Davante Gardner added 26 as Marquette (17-11, 9-6 Big East) won its fifth out six games in a 75-73 win over Georgetown.
The man to thank the most for Tuesday's win is the man who stepped up and assumed his role as the leader of this team upon Melvin's dismissal - senior Brandon Young. Young, again, had an amazing game against the Pirates, leading the Blue Demons with 19 points off of 7-of-12 shooting, in addition to four assists. He did a great job on the defensive end as well, ripping off the Seton Hall offense three times. Young has been the go-to-guy for Oliver Purnell all month, and he ended off February with a huge day on Tuesday.
Young wasn't the sole catalyst in Tuesday's win. In another scarce performance for the Demons, as a team they shot 60 percent from the field, shooting 71 percent in the first half. Billy Garrett Jr. added 15 points, going 9-for-9 from the charity stripe. Sandi Marcius has continued his growth throughout the last couple games, nearing a double-double with 10 points and nine boards. Guard Durrell McDonald contributed 15 points while going 5-for-6 from the field.
Seton Hall (14-14, 5-10) did shoot a 51 percent clip and created 17 turnovers, aiding their comeback in the second half. Fuquan Edwin and Jaren Sina (to keep with the wrestling theme, I really thought he was John Cena's little brother for a good five minutes) really did their part to bring the Pirates back in the second. Edwin recorded a game-high 21 points and four steals, while Sina went 4-for-4 from deep. But DePaul stuck to their game plan, did not panic, regained the lead and didn't relinquish it for the remainder of the game.
Granted, Seton Hall themselves are not very good, so this isn't an upset, mind-blowing victory for DePaul. They'll finish off their regular season conference schedule looking for season sweeps in a Sunday matinee against the Johnnies at MSG and a senior night Futility Bowl Thursday versus Butler.
DePaul can still finish at the very bottom of the BIG East for yet another season, but for right now, celebrate Chicago. The Blue Demons earned a victory.