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DePaul falls to Cincinnati despite 32 points by Cleveland Melvin

Cashmere Wright BrandYoung

Cashmere Wright, Brandon Young

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Updated: January 16, 2013 12:08AM

A frantic final two minutes for DePaul on Tuesday night saw junior Cleveland Melvin almost singlehandedly erase a 12-point deficit against Cincinnati.

Melvin had 10 of DePaul’s closing 15 points, but the Blue Demons (10-7, 1-3 Big East) still came up short in a 75-70 loss at Allstate Arena, their fourth in the last five games.

‘‘We had a lot of energy at the end and tried to come back, but we couldn’t end it,’’ said Melvin, who had a career-high 32 points.

He and junior Brandon Young (18 points) had all but three of DePaul’s 32 points in the second half.

‘‘It’s tough, but our team needs us,’’ Melvin said. ‘‘We have to do what we have to do and be leaders.’’

That won’t be a winning formula, coach Oliver Purnell said.

‘‘We need seven or eight guys to play well in a game like this,’’ he said. ‘‘We struggled to score. If you don’t shoot it well and don’t have [more] guys playing well, it makes it tough.’’

DePaul went 2-for-14 from three-point range and shot only 6-for-8 from the line compared to Cincinnati’s 19-for-31. The Bearcats (15-3, 3-2) also blocked 12 shots, with seven rejected by 6-10 senior Cheikh Mbodj, a new arena record for an opponent.

‘‘They’re a really good interior defensive team,’’ Purnell said of the Bearcats, who were ranked No. 24 until falling from the Top 25 this week. ‘‘They have guys who can erase things at the basket.’’

Cincinnati was led by senior guard Cashmere Wright, who had 20 points in 22 minutes before being forced from the game when his right knee appeared to buckle early in the second half.

By then, Cincinnati had a 54-41 lead, rebounding from DePaul’s dramatic opening 13-2 run that saw Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin call two timeouts in the first four minutes.

‘‘Our guys came out ready to go against a good ballclub, and we did a pretty good job of staying tough, but we had a stretch of turnovers, and that stalled our offense,’’ Purnell said.

Starters Donnavan Kirk and Charles McKinney returned after one-game suspensions for an unspecified violation of team rules. After McKinney scored seven in the first half, he scored only a three-pointer with 22 seconds left — the only second-half score that didn’t come from Melvin or Young.

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