Without Cleveland Melvin in the lineup, DePaul (7-21, 1-15) struggled in the scoring and rebounding departments as they were defeated 86-76 by South Florida's inside strength.
DePaul had no answer on the interior for USF big man Gus Gilchrist who racked up a career-high 32 points. When Gilchrist wasn't beating up DePaul's front line, Jarrid Famous was coming off the bench to do the same with 15 points.
The Bulls dominated on the boards with a 33-19 rebounding advantage in their first road win of the season.
"I thought that all night long South Florida's inside strength was a bit too much for us," said DePaul coach Oliver Purnell. "Offensively I thought in the second half we were doing what we needed to do, but defensively we couldn't handle their size inside."
The Blue Demons sorely missed Melvin, who is sidelined with a sprained thumb on his left hand and will get another medical evaluation on Monday.
"That's a big blow to DePaul not having him out there on the court," said USF coach Stan Heath. "He's got my vote for freshmen of the year. I think that kid has got a great upside. He's so quick and explosive."
"It's a big difference (without Melvin), Cleveland is the type of person who bangs down low and help us get rebounds and score a lot of points for us," said Brandon Young. "He runs up and down the court for us. Without Cleve it's a big difference, hopefully he'll be back soon."
Melvin's absence forced the Blue Demons to go with a smaller lineup.
"The injury to Cleve happened at a bad time for us," said Jeremiah Kelly. "But, we still made no excuses. We wanted to get up and down the floor and play transition and try to get their big guys to run a little bit."
USF led by as many as 14 points in the second half, but credit the scrappy undermanned and undersized DePaul team for fighting their way back. The Blue Demons pulled to within two points with nine minutes to play on Brandon Young's layup, but just couldn't close the gap down the stretch.
In what was a physical game on the interior, DePaul had Krys Faber, Tony Freeland, and Jimmy Drew all foul out in the contest.
"When we were able to get Faber in foul trouble, with them going to the bench and having to play smaller, it allowed our big guys to be even more effective during the course of the game," said Heath.
The Blue Demons had four players finish in double-figures. Once again the DePaul freshmen carried the bulk of the scoring. Freshman guard Brandon Young led the way with 23 points. Moses Morgan came off the bench to score a career high 16 points. Junior Jeremiah Kelly contributed with 14 points. Tony Freeland, who was starting in place of Melvin, added 10 points.
DePaul will face Rutgers on Wednesday night at Allstate Arena in the final home game of the season where they will honor their seniors in a Senior Day ceremony.
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