Less than 24 hours after a tough loss to Iowa, WKU bounced back to defeat DePaul Wednesday night, 70-61, to take third place in the Riviera Division in the 2012 Cancun Challenge. The Hilltoppers saw 30 of their points come from the reserves, and WKU forced 15 Blue Demon turnovers and held DePaul to just one three-point field goal.
The win moves WKU to 3-2 on the season, and DePaul is now 2-3 on the year.
Jamal Crook led WKU with 16 points, and T.J. Price had 13, five rebounds and five assists. Kevin Kaspar added nine points, and Stephon Drane added a career high six points and three rebounds in 17 quality minutes off the bench. DePaul was led by Cleveland Melvin's 22 points and 13 rebounds.
WKU shot 41.8 percent from the field as a team in the game (28-for-67) and outrebounded DePaul, 42-39, after having a rebounding deficit for much of the game. WKU is now 11-1 under head coach Ray Harper when outrebounding its opponent in a game and 11-5 when holding the opposition to fewer than 70 points in the contest.
The Hilltoppers led by as many as 22 points midway through the second half, but held off a furious DePaul rally down the stretch to earn the victory.
The Hilltoppers shot 44.1 percent as a team in the first half (15-for-34) and had 10 assists on their 15 baskets. WKU forced 10 first-half Blue Demon turnovers, which it turned into 10 points. Price led WKU with 13 first-half tallies, and Kaspar had nine. Eight different Hilltoppers scored in the first 20 minutes.
A 9-0 run in the second half, spurred by layups by Teeng Akol and Crook and a tip-in off an offensive rebound by Brandon Harris, vaulted WKU to a 60-38 lead with 9:35 to play.
The Blue Demons chipped away with baskets and by forcing WKU turnovers and trimmed the lead to single digits on three occasions after that, including as few as seven with 1:17 remaining.
But Harris nailed two free throws in the final 30 seconds to bring the game to its final score of 70-61.
The first meeting between WKU and DePaul since 1995 brings the all-time series to 10-6 in favor of the Blue Demons.
WKU returns home on Saturday to play Brescia (Ky.) at 7:30 PM. It is Faculty/Staff Night at E.A. Diddle Arena, where WKU faculty and staff can receive a complimentary ticket to the game with a valid WKU ID.