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DePaul basketball staying positive in midst of 1-8 skid

ROSEMONT IL - JANUARY 15:  BrandYoung #20  DePaul Blue Demons moves against Cashmere Wright #1 Cincinnati Bearcats Allstate

ROSEMONT, IL - JANUARY 15: Brandon Young #20 of the DePaul Blue Demons moves against Cashmere Wright #1 of the Cincinnati Bearcats at Allstate Arena on January 15, 2013 in Rosemont, Illinois. Cincinnati defeated DePaul 75-70. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Brandon Young; Cashmere Wright

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:24AM

A team that has lost eight of its last nine games might be short on optimism. But DePaul coach Oliver
Purnell and his players remain positive about the second half of the Big East schedule they face.

‘‘We’re playing better and better,’’ Purnell said. ‘‘It’s not a consolation, but it’s something to build on. We have to keep fighting and hitting that rock until we break it.’’

Back-to-back overtime losses last week to St. John’s and Notre Dame were the latest setbacks, but the Blue Demons (10-11, 1-7) have chosen to view them as the latest learning experiences.

‘‘We have to have the mind-set to get a stop, get a rebound and make free throws,’’ forward Donnavan Kirk said. ‘‘I know we can win in this league.’’

DePaul’s next chance comes Tuesday at Allstate Arena against Villanova (6 p.m., ESPN2, 670-AM), a team seeking to rebound from its own last-minute loss Sunday to Providence.

‘‘We were doing good things, and then we went through a stretch where we didn’t execute
offensively and gave up some threes at the other end, and it turned out to be the difference in the game,’’ Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

‘‘It’s a matter of us getting better as a team. It’s a lot of little things, and it’s a team that’s growing. I know it doesn’t look good, but we’re going to keep learning and learning and keep getting better.’’

DePaul showed signs of getting better against St. John’s and Notre Dame. It led both games for a time before falling short at the end.

‘‘We have to have each other’s back,’’ guard Brandon Young said. ‘‘It starts with me. I’m the point guard and leader of this team. I have to do a better job of getting my guys focused and have them feed off my energy. We have to concentrate more.’’

Young scored 21 points in the
Demons’ 79-74 loss at St. John’s and had 15 points and five assists in their 79-71 home loss to Notre Dame.

Young and forward Cleveland Melvin continue to lead DePaul in scoring, averaging 16.6 points and 16.5 points, respectively. They rank among the top five scorers in the Big East and were among five Demons in double figures against Notre Dame. It was the first time DePaul had five double-figure scorers since Nov. 14, 2010, against Chicago State in Purnell’s first game at the school.

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