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DePaul beats Florida Atlantic 81-70

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By BRIAN SANDALOW

ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) -- The DePaul Blue Demons got the 1,400th win in program history with an 81-70 victory Thursday night over Florida Atlantic. And fittingly, school legend Mark Aguirre contributed.

Cleveland Melvin scored 19 points, Sandi Marcius added a career-high 19 and 12 rebounds, while Billy Garrett added 14 for the Blue Demons, who had lost three of four. DePaul (5-4) also started a stretch of three games in seven days, which picks up Sunday when it hosts Chicago State and then Houston Baptist on Wednesday.

Aguirre, who is back in school at age 54 to finish his bachelor's degree, spent time with the Blue Demons program during the preseason and this week, and is a reminder of what the program used to be. During his three seasons, Aguirre averaged 24.5 points per game, and was a part of the Blue Demons' 1979 Final Four team.

And whatever he's been saying clearly had an impact on his former team, which had lost three of four.

"I just think he sets a great example for our guys, and obviously he's one of the best NBA players of all time," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. "Clearly one of -- if not the best-- DePaul player of all time, so when he speaks they certainly respect what he has to say and pay attention."

Marcius certainly did.

"We've been working on and off, but the last week has been a lot, even twice a day after workouts," Marcius said. "Even for like 15, 20 minutes, but it adds up after a few days. It's really good work just for technique-wise."

Florida Atlantic didn't have a school legend to help, but it did have Pablo Bertone.

Bertone led FAU with 30 points, and Jackson Trapp had 17. The Owls (3-7) had won two straight over Central Florida and Jacksonville after six consecutive losses, but couldn't push their winning streak to three despite shooting 45.5 percent.

Florida Atlantic was also looking for its first win somewhere other than its Boca Raton campus, but dropped to 0-7 away from home.

"I feel like we gave a great effort against a pretty good team on the road from a big conference," Bertone said. "Obviously we're not satisfied with that."

Bertone, the reigning Conference USA player of the week, hit 11 of 22 and couldn't help the Owls overcome a 38-29 rebounding deficit before fouling out with 11.7 seconds remaining.

"They won the game by out-rebounding us and getting a lot of put-backs, taking advantage of their depth and on the boards," Florida Atlantic coach Mike Jarvis said. "That's where the game was won by them, and that's where we lost it."

That's also where DePaul took the lead for good entering halftime.

Florida Atlantic took an eight-point lead with 6:08 left in the first half on a Bertone free throw, but the Blue Demons ended the period on a 17-8 run, capped off by Melvin's tip-in of his own layup to beat the buzzer.

Melvin recovered from a rough outing last Friday against Arizona State, when he shot 2 of 12 for seven points in DePaul's 78-56 loss. On Thursday, he shot 7 for 13 for the Blue Demons, who were 32 of 61 (52.5 percent) as a team during their first game in six days.

To help even more, DePaul had leading scorer Brandon Young (12 points) back after he missed that loss with a sprained ankle.

"The last game was a sub-par game for (Melvin). Brandon's not there, Cleve has a sub-par game, and we're going to struggle," Purnell said. "Brandon's back, Cleve plays well, our insiders play well and offensively we got everything we need."

That helped the Blue Demons reach a milestone.

A one-time power, the Blue Demons extended their all-time record to 1,400-905. They haven't been to the NCAA tournament since 2004, and aren't expected to contend for another this season out of the new-look Big East.

But on Thursday they made a little bit of history.

"This is a storied program. One of the big reasons I wanted to come here was because of the great players and great teams and all of the tradition," Purnell said. "I didn't realize it was 1,400, but I guess thinking about it I'm not surprised.

"There's been a lot of great teams and great wins that have been here, and I'm just proud to be a part of a great and storied program."

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