CHICAGO (AP) — Cleveland Melvin got DePaul off to a rousing start. Brandon Young helped the Blue Demons finish.
Melvin matched a career high with 30 points, and Young’s free throws helped the Blue Demons held off a late Fairfield rally to secure an 85-78 victory Tuesday night.
Melvin scored 24 first-half points — including 13 points in the opening 4 minutes — while Young hit five of six free throws in a frantic final 2 minutes at Allstate Arena.
‘‘Cleve had a great game,’’ Young said. ‘‘That’s how we need Cleve to play every game — running the floor well, scoring, rebounding, good defender. That’s what you’re going to get out of Cleve, (but) we’re going to need him to be consistent every game.’’
DePaul (3-3) snapped a two-game losing streak and appeared to be on track for a double-digit victory, using a 12-3 run to push their lead to 16 points early in the second half.
But the Blue Demons then had to hold off a late Stags rally capped by a Derek Needham 3-pointer that cut the lead to 78-73 with 2:03 left in regulation. Needham paced Fairfield (3-4) with a career-high 29 points.
‘‘The leadership from Derek Needham just willed us to be competitive,’’ Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson said. ‘‘He’s one of the greatest leaders I've been around, and with a shot here or there going in, we could have gotten a win.’’
Charles McKinney and Donnavan Kirk had 11 and 10 points, respectively, for the Blue Demons. Amadou Sidibe had 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds for Fairfield.
Melvin had 20 points following a three-point play at the 8:30 mark of the first half en route to tying his career best, set Dec. 10 against Chicago State. He was frequently double-teamed in the second half and didn’t score until making a layup at the 12:15 mark; he later hit 30 points on a put-back in the final minute.
Fairfield suffered its second straight loss to a Big East team. Providence beat the Stags 66-47 on Friday.
Needham, a Fairfield senior, made a rare visit to Chicago on Tuesday. He was a high school star and second-team all-state selection while at De La Salle Institute on the city’s South Side.
DePaul next plays at Auburn on Friday in an SEC/Big East Challenge clash and the first-ever meeting between the schools. Fairfield visits Austin Peay on Saturday before starting MAAC play Dec. 7 at home against Canisius.