DePaul hopes to build on a dream ending

CHICAGO -- Growing up, like most players, DePaul sophomore Brandon Young dreamed he would someday be the reason fans rushed a basketball court.

It appeared so exhilarating whenever he saw it happen to other players on television. He just hoped his day would come.

On Thursday, it did.

After Young scored seven points in the final nine seconds to upset Pittsburgh 84-81, DePaul’s students took off from their section behind the basket and ran onto the court to celebrate the Blue Demons’ first home conference win since Jan. 20, 2010.

It’s a sight Young certainly won’t ever forget.

“We were in line to shake hands, and I just saw a whole lot of fans storm the court,” Young said prior to Friday’s practice. “So once I got out of line, I’m going to hop in there with them.”

And it lived up to his expectations.

“It was crazy,” Young said. “It was hot. Students jumping up and down congratulating me. It was just a good experience. It was like a dream come true. I hope we get many more like that.”

DePaul senior Jeremiah Kelly had never been a part of a celebration of that fashion, and he nearly opted to stay out of it.

“It didn’t feel real for a moment,” Kelly said. “It just was crazy. I didn’t think the students were going to rush the court. I thought it was going to be a normal win and go home. I really was just trying to play it cool, and I realized, ‘Oh, I never did that before.’ So, I just got to join the party.”

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell didn’t partake in the fun on the court, but he enjoyed the win in his own way later that night with his staff in a more enjoyable postgame meal than the one following their 19-point loss to top-ranked Syracuse earlier in the week.

“We always go out to dinner as a staff to kind of download the game, so last night was a little bit better than the Syracuse night,” Purnell said while laughing.

DePaul coaches and players were full of laughter on Friday. They didn’t deny it felt good to finally win at home. But also they didn’t want the one win to define their season.

The Blue Demons want more and feel they’re capable of more.

“In the past, it felt like we were desperate for a win,” Kelly said. “This year it’s more different. We’re more confident. We deserve to win. We earned it. We worked hard. It’s a different feeling when win now. It’s more like we can win some more.”

The Big East undoubtedly took notice of DePaul’s win, but Kelly was hopeful the Blue Demons could still fly under the radar.

“They can keep sleeping on us,” Kelly said. “We like that. We kind of felt disrespected, though, by Pittsburgh. In the media, they acted like it was a bounce-back game for them. We took that personally, but we got to take all these games personally because all these teams beat up us on the past. We owe all of them.”

DePaul will look for revenge on the road for the next three games. It travels to Villanova on Sunday and then to Seton Hall and Louisville.

Purnell was hopeful his team could continue taking a step forward.

“I try not to think of the three in a row, first of all,” Purnell said. “But that is a reality. We got three in a row. I think we just got to try to get this one against Villanova. It’s going to be difficult. Everywhere you go in the Big East it’s going to be difficult.

“We’re trying to build confidence. We’re trying to grow. We’re still a very young basketball team. I think a win like that says, ‘Hey, if we do stick together, if we hang in there and continue to work, that we can get the job done.’”