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DePaul ready to take next step in Big East

Head coach Oliver Purnell hopes that the Blue Demons can finish in the middle of the Big East standings.

Jim McIsaac

While the DePaul Blue Demons finished last in the Big East in each of the last two seasons, head coach Oliver Purnell told Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago on Wednesday that finishing in the middle of the conference standings are a reasonable goal for the team:

"That would be an improvement for us to get in the middle," the third-year coach Purnell said prior to practice on Wednesday. "The difference is when you're in the Big East along with several other great conferences in the country, then you got a chance to compete for everything. If we can move up to the middle of the Big East and be competitive with everybody, get some more wins along the way and do a good job in non-conference, now we're talking."

The Blue Demons began their season with a strong showing at home last Friday, handily defeating UC Riverside by a 91-59 score. They couldn't keep that momentum going on Thursday, though, as they fell to Gardner-Webb, 71-59.

They'll have much more difficult competition than Gardner-Webb as the season continues, as the Big East currently boasts five teams in the AP Top 25, including No. 2 Louisville and No. 8 Syracuse.

In the 2011-12 season, the Blue Demons finished 9-4 in non-conference play, but only managed a 3-15 record against conference opponents. That was a step up from the season prior, though, as DePaul finished with a 1-17 record in the Big East during the 2010-11 season.