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DePaul suffers seventh straight loss in 87-62 defeat to No. 6 Villanova

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Updated: February 12, 2014 11:48PM

Departed senior Cleveland Melvin wouldn’t have made a difference for DePaul on Wednesday night against No. 6 Villanova in the team’s 87-62 thumping and seventh straight loss.

DePaul (10-15, 2-10 Big East) started three freshmen and two seniors against the Wildcats (22-2, 10-1), who had five players score in double digits.

But it was Melvin’s exit Monday after a three-week suspension that has become a flashpoint in the cascading fortunes of coach Oliver Purnell.

Melvin’s suspension Jan. 25 for undisclosed reasons was the first disciplinary action in his career. It prompted a university inquiry, then a cryptic announcement Monday that he had ‘‘left’’ the school. It spawned rumors of serious misconduct issues, but Purnell and the university remained mum because of federal privacy laws.

Worse might be that Melvin’s suspension was the third on the team this season, not counting the benching last month for half the game against Xavier of senior co-captain Brandon Young for what Purnell said was lack of leadership.

Junior Charles McKinney was suspended for two games for undisclosed team violations, then reinstated. Junior Jamee Crockett, suspended for undisclosed reasons Jan. 4, returned Wednesday.

They are part of a team that was to be transformed this year after four players were released from their scholarships and transferred after last season.

Freshman guard Billy Garrett Jr. and freshman forward Tommy Hamilton IV, both from Chicago, have shown the most promise among the new players. Garrett is the Big East’s leading freshman scorer (11.7 ppg). Hamilton is the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 5.4 per game.

But the Blue Demons continue to falter on the court in the fourth year of Purnell’s seven-year, $15 million contract.

The team has the only overall losing record in the new 10-team Big East Conference, and it has won only two conference games.

The Blue Demons have won only eight conference games in Purnell’s tenure.

Purnell admitted the team ‘‘has been going through our share of adversity the last three weeks with injuries and illness and then with Cleve. I think the kids are dealing with it pretty well. We talk about adversity and how you deal with it. It’s a test.’’

It’s a test for Purnell, as well.

‘‘I’m taking it one game at a time, one day at a time,’’ he said. ‘‘I don’t think you can afford to look ahead or behind. Our league is too tough for that.’’

Purnell, who has coached five programs in 26 years, said he has gone through similar woes before.


Twitter: @toniginnetti

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