(AP) — DePaul coach Oliver Purnell knows there are a lot of areas his team needs to improve on of its going to be a NCAA Tournament team at season's end.
But after concluding its three days at the Old Spice Classic with a 68-64 win over Arizona State Sunday and a fifth place finish, he feels like at least there is a blueprint now for the Blue Demons to get there.
"We came in here for three things: To get better...play some good competition, and get closer together," Purnell said. "And I think the group is really close and a trip like this can do that for you. To get out of here 2-1, you take it."
Cleveland Melvin had 18 points and Brandon Young added 13 to help the Blue Demons hold off a late charge by the Sun Devils (2-4).
It was the third straight close game DePaul (4-1) had in the tournament following an 86-85 loss to Minnesota and 76-70 win over Texas Tech.
It was also the third consecutive game that the duo of Melvin and Young have come up big after each scored 20-plus points in their first two Old Spice games.
Purnell was particularly impressed with Melvin's performance.
"Cleve is going to score for us, but I thought he picked it up defensively," Purnell said. "As the game wore on, he came up with some critical blocked shots and some rebounds (seven for the game). When he does that he's an all-around player and then he does so much for us."
Arizona State trailed by four points at halftime and throughout the second half before getting it down to a basket in the waning seconds. But Jordan Bachynski came up empty on a pair of free-throw attempts that would have tied it at 66.
Two free throws by Melvin on the other end to provide the final margin.
Arizona State was led by Keala King's 22 points, followed by Trent Lockett with 19. But the Sun Devils were hamstrung by 19 turnovers, a throwback to their tournament-opening loss to Fairfield in which they turned it over 22 times.
"It's been the theme for us all season and once again it was clearly a problem and the difference this afternoon," Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek said.
Sendek said he felt like there were times in which his team played defense, but it wasn't sustained throughout the full shot clock. He also said the Blue Demons got more open looks from the outside than he would have liked.
"(Arizona State's defense) certainly could have been better," he said. "They got too many good looks from 3 against us."
DePaul kept about an eight-point cushion most of the second half until a flurry of action under the three-minute mark opened the door.
A three-point play by Lockett cut DePaul's lead to 62-60 with 1:59 to play and he trimmed it to a basket again a few possessions later at 66-64.
Bachynski rebounded a missed Carrick Felix 3-pointer in the corner with 4.3 seconds left. But he missed his first ensuing free-throw attempt. A lane violation then negated his second and Melvin was able to ice the game at the line.
Arizona State held a 44-30 rebounding edge, but struggled to transform the extra opportunities into points as struggled to get clean looks at the basket. The Sun Devils played great half-court defense at times, though often surrendered baskets late in the shot clock.
The Blue Demons won despite shooting just 38 percent for the game and 8 of 22 from the 3-point line.
DePaul led by as many as 12 in the first half, but up 29-19 following back-to-back 3's by Moses Morgan the Blue Demons allowed Arizona to outscore them 8-2 over the final three minutes.
The Blue Demons also shot just 36 percent from the field in the half and were outrebounded 27-13.
Arizona State didn't get much out of the edge on the glass, though, thanks to 11 turnovers.
Purnell said he feels good about where his team is headed.
"To be in those close games, we always reference a six-minute game because when you're a pretty good basketball team in a good league, most games come down to the last six minutes. Clearly every game here did.
"That gets us ready as we move forward for our next game and to really move into the Big East."