DePaul victorious in Big East thriller against Pittsburgh

By Lindsey Woods

With 17.2 seconds left, it didn’t look good for the DePaul Blue Demons men’s basketball team. They were still down 77-81 after a second-half come back against reigning Big East champions, the Pittsburgh Panthers.

Then came Brandon Young.

In those 17.2 seconds, he turned the game around with a 7-point streak for the Blue Demon’s first ever Big East win over the Panthers.

“Brandon’s our hero,” said teammate Cleveland Melvin. “He did what he had to do to win the game. “

A layup started the drive that ended the victory and after Pittsburgh’s Isaiah Epps missed his only two free throws of the night, Young, who had 26 points and 4 rebounds, made the three-point play that set the Blue Demon’s up for victory.

“Brandon asked me before the play if we needed a three, and I said, ‘You could or not, depending on the score,’” head coach Oliver Purnell said. “Brandon knew we needed two.”

He drove in past Pittsburgh’s Ashton Gibbs, who was forced to foul Young as he sunk another lay up. Then, in front of a crowd on its feet, he sunk he free throw to put the DePaul in the lead.

Young then hit another two free throws after being fouled by Gibbs again, to put the Panthers down by three points with .8 seconds to go in the game.

After Gibbs missed a long shot that would have tied the game, fans stormed the court in celebration of the Blue Demon’s first home conference win in two years.

“This is one of my big wins because I got to hit three clutch free throws. It’s a big statement, it means we can beat anybody now,” Young said.

Conversely, the Panther’s loss sealed coach Jamie Dixon’s longest losing streak in his 9-year head-coaching career at four games. The game was also Pittsburgh’s third straight conference loss, the other two being against Notre Dame and Cincinnati.

“The defense is not where it need to be,” said Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon. “We outrebounded obviously by a big number [50-32], and that shows the effort that we’re putting out there…but at the end of the day, we didn’t get it done.”

DePaul wasn’t without struggles, with Melvin only scoring seven points in the first half (he scored 20 total points), putting the Blue Demons down 38-31 at the half.

“The first half I wasn’t making shots,” Melvin said. “In the second half I just took my time.”

Purnell also expressed dissatisfaction with first half play, calling the game “a tale of two halves.”

“We just kind of hung in there in the first half, but we were close enough to still see them,” he said.

And so could the fans. Students overflowed the student section at Allstate Arena after the team welcomed them back to the dorms with pizza on Jan. 3 and a pep rally on Jan. 4. They showed their overwhelming support with a rush to the court after the last buzzer.

“It was the best feeling of my life when the fans rushed the court,” Melvin said. “I just loved it.”