No team has suffered as much as DePaul has in three seasons in the Big East. Now, Pitt is feeling some of the pain.
Brandon Young scored 26 points, including a three-point play with 1.3 seconds left, as DePaul beat Pittsburgh 84-81 last night.
Young scored the game’s last seven points for the Blue Demons (10-4, 1-1 Big East) after Pitt held an 81-77 lead with 17.2 seconds remaining. Young’s layup cut the Panthers’ lead to two points; then Pitt’s Isaiah Epps missed two free throws.
Young drove through the Panthers’ defense for a basket and he was fouled with 1.3 seconds left. He made the free throw for a one-point lead, and Pitt threw the ensuing inbounds pass away. Young was fouled and made two more free throws.
Cleveland Melvin scored 20 points and Moses Morgan added 13 for DePaul, which before last night had won just two regular-season Big East games since the 2008-09 season. DePaul also snapped a 15-game conference home losing streak.
“I hope a lot of teams respect us now that we’re coming out playing hard and getting more wins. It’s not the old DePaul, it’s the new DePaul,” said Young. “It’s a big statement; it means we can beat anyone now.”
Talib Zanna had 16 points and seven rebounds and Ashton Gibbs finished with 13 points for Pittsburgh (11-5, 0-3). It’s the first time the Panthers have lost four games in a row in coach Jamie Dixon’s nine seasons at Pitt.
“It was a tough loss. We came out and played hard, we gave it our all. They just executed at the end and we didn’t do a good job on defense and they drove to the basket and got an open shot,” Pitt’s Nasir Robinson said. “It was a game we should have won, no matter who it was.”
With no timeouts in the final minutes, Young took the game in his hands to beat the reigning Big East regular-season champs.
“If he (Epps) would’ve hit those free throws they would’ve been up by three or four,” Young said. “I was supposed to come up and hit the 3, but they didn’t so I just went to the lane and got the (three-point play).”
Dixon had no regrets for playing Epps, who has been used sparingly this season, in the final minutes.
“We wanted to have our best free-throw shooters in there and he is a very good free-throw shooter. He hasn’t shot a lot this year, but that was our decision,” Dixon said.
DePaul trailed 47-37 with 16:25 left, and Jamee Crockett made a 3-pointer to start an 11-2 run. Morgan made another 3 for the Demons and Jeremiah Kelly hit Young on a backdoor pass to get the Blue Demons within 49-48. Kelly made a 3-pointer and found Melvin underneath for an easy basket to tie the game at 55 with 10:33 left. Melvin later made a pair of free throws to give DePaul a 59-58 lead, its first lead of the second half.
After six unanswered DePaul points in the first minute, Dixon had to burn an early timeout. Then the Panthers scored 12 straight points and outscored DePaul 26-8. Robinson made a pair of free throws and a layup then Cameron Wright’s basket extended the Pitt lead to 26-14 with 8:27 left in the half.
Morgan made two free throws and Young had a free throw at the end of the half to get DePaul within 38-31 at halftime.
Zanna and John Johnson each scored eight points in the half for the Panthers. Young, scoreless in a blowout loss Sunday to top-ranked Syracuse, led the Demons with 11 first-half points. DePaul held Gibbs to just four points in the first half.
Pittsburgh was without starting point guard Tray Woodall, who has been battling an abdominal injury.
“Nobody wants to hear excuses, we haven’t done that before and we are not going to do that now. You have to play with who you have. We just hope he (Woodall) is recovering,” Dixon said.