AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Cleveland Melvin stole the ball and sealed the game for DePaul.
Melvin scored 21 points and made a steal and two free throws late to lift DePaul to an 80-76 victory over Auburn Friday night in the SEC/Big East Challenge.
Melvin swiped a pass from Rob Chubb as the Tigers tried to set up for at least a tying basket. He drove for a layup with 13 seconds left but was fouled by Noel Johnson and put the game away for the Blue Demons (4-3). Brandon Young scored 19 points and had five assists for DePaul, which has won two straight games after dropping a pair.
"I think it's believing," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "We didn't get down because we missed free throws. You've seen it so many times. You miss some easy shots, you miss some free throws that kind of deflate you on the other end. I never felt that way. I felt like our guys kept grinding."
Melvin made 9 of 13 free-throw attempts and had 10 rebounds to follow up a 30-point game against Fairfield. Worrel Clahar hit two second-half 3-pointers and had 11 points.
"Auburn is a tough team and we knew they were going to come out hard and compete after the loss they just had," Young said. "We wanted to fight for 40 minutes and come out with this win, because we really needed it, too."
Frankie Sullivan scored a career-high 28 points for Auburn (2-5), which has lost four in a row. Chubb had 17 points and 13 rebounds.
Sullivan, who had 20 first-half points, also dished out five assists. He made his first four 3-pointers before missing his last three against a trapping, pressing defense that frequently denied him the ball in the second half.
Sullivan was 3 of 14 for seven points in a double-overtime loss to Rhode Island in the Tigers' last game.
"The box score looks good," he said. "It always does when everybody's scoring."
But he added that things like the loose balls the Tigers didn't reach are "way more important than the box score."
Johnson added 10 points.
DePaul shot 50 percent (12 of 24) in the second half to overcome a 19 of 33 performance from the free-throw line.
The Tigers went cold as the Blue Demons turned up the defensive heat, making just 12 of 31 shots (38.7 percent) after halftime.
"We got a lot of great looks in the second half," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "Unfortunately they shoot 50 percent and make the shots that they needed to make."
Johnson hit two 3-pointers to tie the game at 72 with 3:33 left.
Then Melvin hit 1 of 2 free throws and Clahar drilled a 3-pointer with 2:15 to play. Auburn twice cut it to two points after that, the second time on a Sullivan drive with a minute left.
The Blue Demons pushed the ball across midcourt before calling timeout. Young drove along the baseline and fired a pass to the opposite side to Melvin, who missed a 3-pointer.
He made sure DePaul got the ball back before Auburn could attempt a shot, when Chubb got caught with the ball around the 3-point line.
"I called a play, we didn't execute," Barbee said.
Auburn had led 46-42 at halftime after Sullivan made two technical foul free throws with a minute left. Young had made a 3-pointer but then was called for a technical for taunting Auburn students.