"It tastes good!" Purnell said on his first win in Rosemont.
DePaul (2-4) led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but Northern Illinois (2-4) made a late run at DePaul in the second half.
The Blue Demons were led by a career-high 25 points from sophomore forward Tony Freeland, who walked away with the Jay Goedert Memorial player of the game award.
With forward Devin Hill sidelined with a stress fracture in his left foot, Freeland played 36 minutes tonight and made the most of it.
"I thought he played with energy," Purnell said of Freeland. "I thought he was a leader out there. We got the ball to him and he delivered. It was tough and he made some power shots in there that gave us an inside presence."
Freeland, who had struggled from the free throw line in previous contests, shot 13 of 16 from the charity stripe tonight.
"(Assistant) Coach (Ron) Bradley helped me with it a lot throughout this last week of practice," said Tony, who also corralled nine rebounds.
While Freeland may have walked away with the award, it was freshman point guard Brandon Young's clutch play down the stretch that secured the win for DePaul. Young scored 17 points, all of which came in the second half.
"The big moments were where he stepped up big with a defensive play or a slash to the basket," Purnell said of Young. "He's a Big East player."
Senior Mike Stovall also chipped in with 16 points for DePaul.
For the first time all season, the Blue Demons held the advantage in rebounding, leading the Huskies by a 39-34 margin on the glass.
"We came up with some rebounds, when we had to have it," Purnell said. "All game long we were doing an incredible job on the backboards, instead of doing a woeful job on the backboards. It really helped us."
The Huskies were led by a 34 point effort from Xavier Silas, who matched his previous career high.
Jeremy Landers contributed with 14 points and freshman Nate Rucker chipped in with 13 points for NIU.
DePaul also shot an improved 78% from the free throw line.
"We worked an awful lot on free throws today," said Purnell. "You don't make free throws, you don't win that game."
"We were real focused today, because we know that free throws have been costing us games," added Freeland.
Perhaps it came from the power of positive thinking.
"Guys did a good job of staying in a positive frame of mind," said Purnell.
- Junior forward Devin Hill is out for four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot. Hill started in four games for DePaul this season.
- As player of the game, Tony Freeland received the Jay Goedert Memorial Award. The award is named in honor of former DePaul and NIU assistant coach Jay Goedert who passed away in July of 2004 at the age of 44. Goedert's family were present for tonight's game. Freeland was the first DePaul player to win the award since it was instituted.
- The Blue Demons will travel to DeKalb next year for the next game in the series with NIU.
- Former Blue Demon greats Mark Aguirre and David Booth were sitting on press row for tonight's game.
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