(AP) — Northern Illinois gave Brandon Young and DePaul fits Sunday before the Blue Demons decided they needed to finally put the Huskies away.
Young scored a team-high 15 points, including two free throws in the final seconds, to help secure a 69-64 non-conference victory.
“We realized at the last second that it’s time for us to fight and that’s what we did,” Young said.
DePaul (8-3) ran its winning streak to six as Jamee Crockett had 14 points and Cleveland Melvin added 12.
Abdel Nader, playing in only his second game since serving a seven-game suspension, scored a game-high 20 points for Northern Illinois (2-7) while Akeem Springs added 11.
DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said his Blue Demons finally caught fire in the last six minutes.
“We call that winning time and clearly our guys did a good job,” he said. “We got all the big rebounds, we handled the ball under pressure, we made our free throws and every one of them was critical.”
Young hit a pair of free throws with 15 seconds to play to open a 67-64 lead after Springs put the Huskies back in contention with back-to-back 3-pointers in a 14-second span.
The last came with 16 seconds to play and trimmed DePaul’s lead to 65-64.
The game came a day after DePaul and six other Catholic universities announced that they will withdraw from the Big East Conference in 2015 and form their own, yet-to-be-named league.
The Blue Demons padded the edge early in the second half, pulling out to a 40-33 lead on Durrell McDonald’s 3-pointer at the 15:09 mark. But the Huskies bounced back as Nader scored six points and guard Mike Davis added a bank shot to force a 49-49 tie with 8:02 remaining.
There were four lead changes and a tie until Crockett’s 3-pointer with 4:05 to play gave DePaul the lead for good at 57-56.
Springs prevented DePaul from locking down by hitting two 3-pointers in a 14-second span, but Young’s free throws restored the Demons’ 67-64 lead with 15.6 seconds showing.
“Our guys came out competing, playing hard,” said Huskies coach Mark Montgomery. “We had a chance to win this thing.”
The Blue Demons led through much of the opening half but couldn’t pull away from the pesky Huskies.
DePaul appeared poised for a run after a Crockett dunk gave the Demons their biggest lead at 22-16, but Northern Illinois replied with six consecutive points, including back-to-back steals and baskets from Davis, that forced a 22-22 tie with 7:32 remaining.
The Huskies grabbed a temporary 24-23 lead on a layup by Aksel Bolin and held a 31-27 lead with 2:01 showing. But a pair of Charles McKinney free throws and two straight Young jumpers in an 8-second span in the final minute gave DePaul a 33-31 halftime lead.
DePaul now holds a 25-6 series lead over Northern Illinois and has beaten the Huskies in three straight meetings.
Young was presented with the Jay Goedert Award as the game’s outstanding player. The award was named for the former DePaul and Northern Illinois assistant coach who died in 2004.
Northern Illinois opens a two-game western swing on Wednesday at Seattle University, while DePaul hosts Maryland-Baltimore at 1 p.m. Saturday.