In the end it was the Demons that prevailed 81-78.
DePaul (7-4) struggled with leading scorer Eli Cain on the bench for most of the first half with three fouls. Cain had just two points at the halfway mark. Also, starting forward Tre’Darius McCallum was forced to sit after his fourth foul in the second half.
Added to that, the Blue Demon starters were struggling early in the second half, and found themselves down 14 points with 13:39 to play, with the Redhawks forcing a lot of turnovers and hitting 3-pointers.
DePaul then got the help it needed with the play of freshman guard Devin Gage and senior R.J. Curington off the bench.
Gage scored a career-high 11 points on five of seven from the field and hustled on the defensive end as well.
“My challenge for Devin is to play with that energy,” said Leitao. “I thought he started the second half by just being an attacker. He’s too young to have to figure everything out, so play to your strengths and be an attacker, and I’ll live with the good and the bad that comes from it. I thought he gave us a good lift, by giving us three early layups and it softened up their defense just enough.”
“Coach Leitao was chewing me out and telling me that I need to get to the basket more and do what I do,” said Gage. “That’s what I have to do to give my team a spark.”
For Curington, it was his highest scoring output since his freshman year. R.J. finished with 13 points off the bench.
Five Blue Demons finished in double-figures.
Billy Garrett, Jr. led the way for the Demons with 19 points. Cain scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half and McCallum chipped in with 10 points.
Southeast Missouri State (4-7) was led by 28 points from Antonius Cleveland and a career-high of 20 points from Jamaal Calvin.
The Blue Demons travel to Las Vegas, Nevada for a meeting with the Wyoming Cowboys at Orleans Arena on Thursday night as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic tournament.