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Cleveland Melvin and bad free-throw shooting latest DePaul woes

DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. left celebrates with guard BrandYoung after DePaul defeated Northwestern 57-56 an NCAA college basketball game

DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr., left, celebrates with guard Brandon Young after DePaul defeated Northwestern 57-56 in an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, in Evanston, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: February 4, 2014 10:29AM

The start of a new season in a newly aligned Big East hasn’t changed DePaul’s fortunes yet.

And as the Blue Demons (8-6) prepare to face their longest-standing rival Marquette (8-6) on Saturday, they continue to deal with one overriding problem: inconsistency.

It took a prayer at the buzzer by freshman Billy Garrett Jr. to pull out a 57-56 victory last week at Northwestern, a game that was marred by turnovers, missed shots and sloppy execution.

Then the Demons were their own worst enemies against Georgetown on Tuesday, opening Big East play with a 61-54 loss by missing 13 of 26 free throws — including 10 of their last 13 attempts — and having leading scorer, senior Cleveland Melvin (15.4 point average), finish with only six points on 2 of 12 shooting.

‘‘The way the game is played now [with tighter foul calling], you need to make those free throws, especially in the second half of games,’’ coach Oliver Purnell said.

DePaul is shooting only 67 percent from the free-throw line—and that percentage would be worse without Garrett’s team-leading 82.8 percent.

But Melvin’s struggles are the latest new woe, with the 6-8 forward scoring in single digits in the team’s last two losses.

‘‘He’s in a little slump, clearly,’’ Purnell said. ‘‘We need him to step up.’’

The Golden Eagles historically has been a tough opponent for DePaul, holding a 68-44 advantage all time. But the challenge is heightened because Marquette will be playing its conference home opener after its own poor Big East road debut, a 67-49 loss at Creighton.

The Golden Eagles shot only 35.8 percent in the loss.

‘‘We have to find ways to score,’’ coach Buzz Williams said after the loss. ‘‘We need to score points in transition. We need to score points in the first 10 seconds on the [shot] clock.’’

The Golden Eagles lead the conference in scoring defense, holding opponents to 61.9 points per game, while the Demons are ninth giving up an average of 70.4 points per game.

DePaul’s lone consistent bright spot has been the play of Garrett, who was named conference freshman of the week a third time this week and is averaging almost 14 points and four assists in the last three games.


Twitter: @toniginnetti

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