OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — DePaul coach Oliver Purnell liked how his team came back from a double-digit deficit to put a scare into 12th-ranked Creighton.
Now his Blue Demons need to learn how to finish.
DePaul’s Brandon Young scored 16 points and Forrest Robinson added 11 in a 78-66 loss that extended the Blue Demons’ losing streak to six games.
“Our guys fought hard but we cannot be satisfied to fight hard and not come up with the victory,” Purnell said. “Hopefully, we can take some lessons from this game as we play Villanova at home next week and come back and fight hard and make a few winning plays and get the job done.”
The Blue Demons (10-14, 2-9 Big East) had no answer for Doug McDermott.
The Creighton star scored 32 points — 11 during a 14-2 run after DePaul pulled within a point in the second half. The Bluejays (19-3, 9-1) have won 14 of their last 15 games.
Purnell opted to double-team McDermott every time he touched the ball early in the game. But McDermott found open teammates for easy baskets. The Blue Demons went to single coverage on McDermott and tried to limit the touches of other scorers, mainly 3-point specialist Ethan Wragge.
“He’s the best player in the country,” Purnell said. “You just battle every play. We (rotated) two or three guys on him, and I thought we did a good job of getting ourselves in a position to win the game. But we didn’t make shots to match them. It was almost like offense against offense at that point, and clearly he was really, really good.”
The Blue Demons shot 39.7 percent but were close in the second half because of a dominant performance on the boards. They held a 41-31 rebounding advantage, using supreme effort on the glass to erase most of a 14-point deficit.
McDermott was 9 of 21 from the field and made 13 of 14 free throws, including 9 of 10 in the last 7 minutes as the Bluejays pulled away.
“We’re a team, and anyone is capable of putting points on the board,” McDermott said. “I was just trying to be aggressive. It’s great that they were finding me in the right spots. I didn’t finish a bunch of them, but I was able to get to the line. It’s great to close out the game like that.”
Durrell McDonald’s layup got DePaul to 59-58 with 7:35 to play. The Blue Demons made one more field goal before Edwind McGhee’s meaningless layup with 18 seconds to play.
The Bluejays, playing for the first time in 10 days, made 13 of their first 20 shots but finished 26 of 56 (46.4 percent).
“Sometimes you don’t shoot it the best and you have to find a way to win,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said, “and that’s what we did tonight.”
Austin Chatman added 11 points for the Bluejays. McDermott grabbed nine rebounds to go over 1,000 for his career.
The game marked the return of Creighton guard Grant Gibbs, who dislocated his right kneecap in the first meeting with DePaul on Jan. 7 and missed six games. He entered to a standing ovation three minutes after the opening tip.
The first two times Gibbs touched the ball he assisted on baskets by McDermott. Gibbs sat out 4 minutes, then came back and threw a lob from the 3-point arc to set up McDermott’s dunk that gave the Bluejays a double-digit lead.
“It was really rejuvenating to get back out there with my teammates,” said Gibbs, who had seven points and eight assists in 21 minutes. “Got a little work to do to get back to 100 percent. For the most part I felt good. I’ve got to get my legs and my wind back.”
Creighton played without backup guard Devin Brooks, who was ill. Greg McDermott said Brooks is questionable for the Bluejays’ game against St. John’s on Sunday in New York.
The Blue Demons played a fourth straight game without scoring leader Cleveland Melvin, who is suspended indefinitely.
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