ROSEMONT, Ill. — It was the second meeting in school history between the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks and the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday at Allstate Arena.
The game was a bit closer than the fans in attendance had anticipated, but when you shoot 13-of-30 from long range and score 22 points off 13 turnovers, you give yourself a chance. That is exactly what the Redhawks did. None the less, DePaul avoided a scare in the closing moments, defeating SEMO 81-78.
“It was a good comeback win,” said DePaul head coach Dave Leitao. “We showed grit.”
Grit indeed was needed for the Blue Demons to grind out this victory, as DePaul had issues defending the perimeter. It showed early as SEMO used a 10-0 run to take a lead late in the first half.
With leading scorer Eli Cain picking up three fouls in the first half, DePaul had issues scoring. The Blue Demons were fortunate to go into the locker room with only a five-point deficit.
Then coming out the gate in the second half, SEMO continued their stellar play carrying over a run from the first half outscoring the Blue Demons 22-4. DePaul could not contain Antonius Cleveland as he scored a game-high 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting from the field. His backcourt mate Jamaal Calvin gave him a hand, scoring 20 points and accounting for 6 of the Redhawks’ 13 made shots from deep.
However, the Blue Demons went on a run of their own and regained the lead, using a 19-4 run with a little under eight minutes remaining in regulation. A fantastic defensive effort by the Blue Demons in the second half was key as they went into a press that forced SEMO into six second half turnovers.
Lastly, a huge credit was the bench play for DePaul. The Blue Demons received 27 points from their bench, with reserves R.J. Currington and Devin Gage combining for 24.
The Blue Demons finished the game shooting 53% from the field and were led by senior guard Billy Garrett Jr., who had 19 points and 8 assists. With those numbers Garrett now ranks 22nd on the DePaul’s all-time scoring list and 12th on the all-time assist list.
Looking ahead for the Blue Demons (7-4), they will travel to Las Vegas as they will continue the Continental Tire Classic with a matchup against Wyoming on Thursday.