DePaul improved to 12-1 before conference play. Coach Dave Leitao tempered his excitement just a bit.
Charlie Moore scored 25 points, Jaylen Butz added a career-high 24 and DePaul held off Northwestern 83-78 on Saturday.
Paul Reed and Jalen Coleman-Lands scored all of their combined 24 points after halftime to guide the Blue Demons, who are aiming for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003-04.
“My staff is trying to console me because I’m not jumping for joy after the game,” Leitao said. “I’m looking at all the things we didn’t do as opposed to what we did do. So there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Boo Buie had 25 points in his first career start, Miller Kopp added 21 and Ryan Young had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Northwestern (5-6), one of the youngest teams in the country.
Coleman-Lands added 13 points and Reed had 11 points and 12 rebounds for DePaul for his 10th double-double to lead the Big East. The Blue Demons are receiving poll votes and won 10 games before Jan. 1 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Northwestern’s four-game winning streak in the teams’ all-time series was snapped.
DePaul opened the second half on a 16-4 run for a 50-42 lead, but Northwestern retook the lead on an 11-2 run. Coleman-Lands completed a four-point play for a three-point DePaul lead, Butz made a dunk and layup and DePaul hit free throws to hang on.
“We started flying around a little bit better than we had the first 36 1/2 minutes,” Leitao said. “That turned the tide.”
DePaul has won three straight since its 74-69 loss to Buffalo. Northwestern has lost four of six.
Northwestern started Buie and A.J. Turner, a senior, for the first time this season with Anthony Gaines (shoulder) out. Buie scored a career-high 26 points against No. 15 Michigan State in his last game. Northwestern coach Chris Collins said he altered the starting lineup so Northwestern wouldn’t have an all-freshman bench.
“He’s made a big jump over the past couple weeks,” Collins said of Buie. “He’s fearless, which I love. Now he’s just got to continue to study the game and learn and get better.”
Buie had 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting for a four-point Northwestern lead at halftime.
“He’s a great player,” Moore said. “He made me raise my level of game.”