Demonizing DePaul

ROSEMONT, Ill. — The charity stripe had not been kind to Dominic James all night. Even though he had been a human highlight reel for much of the game — slicing, dishing and leaping through, around and over DePaul defenders — he looked quite pedestrian any time he toed the free throw line.

When Jabari Currie fouled James and sent him to the line for two shots with 49 seconds to play, the freshman point guard had missed four of his six attempts in the game, including both of his shots after Cliff Clinkscales was whistled for an intentional foul.

At that point Marquette led by 10 and a pair of misses did not matter. But, now the Golden Eagles were clinging to a perilous 76-72 lead and James was shooting into a hostile DePaul student section.

His first attempt hit the front iron, bounced to the backboard and then dropped in.

The second one hit nothing but net and helped to propel Marquette to an 82-79 win and end a three-game, Big East road trip with a 2-1 record.

"I couldn't dwell on the first couple missed shots," said James, who finished with 29 points, five rebounds and three assists. "I got to stay confident. I'm the point guard, and guys look to me. If I'm kind of shaky at the free throw line I feel like that's going to be contagious through the rest of the team. I said a little prayer to God, and I made the last two free throws."

After the opening 20 minutes it seemed more likely that Marquette (13-5, 3-2 Big East) would be singing hymns of praise and thanks instead of pleading for divine intervention down the stretch.

Chicago native Joe Chapman got things started for Marquette by scoring eight points in the opening three-and-a-half minutes. James chipped in six points by the 14:20 mark and all of a sudden the lead was 17-4.

"We weren't as ready as they were," said DePaul guard Sammy Mejia. "The first half we came out, kind of waiting to see what would happen. Who would throw the first punch? Who would sit back?"

Marquette continued to land body blows for the remainder of the half.

Senior Steve Novak rebounded from his 2-for-8 shooting performance at West Virginia on Saturday and drained five three-pointers from the left side. His final three of the half with 4:17 to play put Marquette up 43-22 and appeared to be the knockout punch. But DePaul managed to hang around.

In the final three minutes of the half Marquette made only one basket and turned the ball over four times.

"They capitalized on it and built on some of that momentum in the second half," said head coach Tom Crean. "The greatest thing we could tell our team is that there is absolutely no way they wouldn't do their very best to come back. And they did."

The Blue Demons went on a 17-6 run to close out the first half and start the second. Marquette's game-high 24 point lead had been whittled to 13 and the home team and its crowd were back in the game.

Mejia scored 18 points in the second half and Milwaukee native Draelon Burns added 13 after the break, including a pair of free throws with 21 seconds to play that brought DePaul within two, 78-76.

That was as close as the Blue Demons would get. Novak, who finished with 24 points, and Jamil Lott, followed their point guard's lead and drained both of their free throw shots to seal the win.