NEWARK, New Jersey — Perhaps the national ranking and everything that came with it was too much, too soon for Seton Hall to handle.
"We've been on Cloud Nine for the last couple of weeks," Seton Hall senior forward Brandon Mobley said. "We have to grow up."
The Pirates (13-5, 3-3 Big East) lost for the second time in three games since earning the No. 19 ranking on Jan. 5.
"The ranking has been great, but losing three out of four should be enough motivation for this team," Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. "Every game in this league is going to be one of these games. Everybody knows everybody. We're going to be in these types of games. We have to make sure that when we get up eight, we don't take quick shots and turn the ball over. We have to grind the game out and get the win."
It looked as if Seton Hall had the game won, going on a 10-1 run, thanks to Mobley, who had two free throws, then had a monstrous breakaway dunk. Jaren Sina capped the run with a long 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 55-47 with 5:48 left.
The Pirates held the Blue Demons for more than five minutes without a field goal.
But the Blue Demons crept back into it, courtesy of clutch plays from Darrick Wood and Rashaun Stimage down the stretch. Wood drained a long 3-pointer, then made a power drive to the basket with 1:49 left gave the Blue Demons the lead for good at 59-58.
"I don't think we played well offensively at all," Willard said. "I expected us to be a little rusty after being off for eight days, but I didn't expect this. This was tough to swallow."
Wood ended up scoring 11 points, seven of which came down the stretch. Stimage, who came into the game averaging 1.8 points per game, added 10.
DePaul had lost 51 straight games against ranked teams dating to 2008 (No. 17 Villanova at home) and 2005 on the road (No. 16 Wake Forest).
"I wasn't aware of that, but I'm not surprised," said coach Oliver Purnell, in his fifth season at DePaul. "A lot of that happened before I got here, but I knew we hadn't beaten once since I've been here."
Angel Delgado set career highs with 19 points and 19 rebounds for the Pirates.
"It was very tough because this was my best game and still we lost the game," said Delgado, part of the Pirates' heralded freshman recruiting class. "I wanted to win this game so bad. We have to stay focused on what we have ahead."
Khadeem Carrington added 12 before fouling out. Mobley added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Leading scorer Sterling Gibbs scored just four points, shooting just 2 of 16 from the floor and missing all seven of his shots from beyond the 3-point line.
"We have to learn to play tooth-and-nail to the end," Mobley said. "Sure, this is disappointing, but we have to bounce back. We had a lead and got happy. There's not much more to say about that."
The team played once again without freshman Isaiah Whitehead, who is still sidelined with a broken foot. There is no timetable for Whitehead's return. Whitehead was averaging 11.9 points in 11 games before suffering the injury.
"We were 10-1 before he got hurt, so there's no question we miss him a great deal," Willard said. "I don't have anyone else who can take the scoring load. He'll be back eventually. Until we get Isaiah back, we've been basically playing with house money."
DePaul: The Blue Demons are enjoying their best start in any conference since leaving independent status in 1991. DePaul joined the Big East in 2005 after stints in the now-defunct Great Midwest and Conference USA. ... The Blue Demons have made at least one 3-point field goal in 664 consecutive games. ... DePaul began a three-game, six-day road trip with the visit to the Prudential Center on Thursday night.
Seton Hall: Delgado ranks second in the nation among freshmen in rebounding (9.1 per game), trailing only Kevon Looney of UCLA. ... Seton Hall has earned six of the Big East rookie of the week honors so far this season. Carrington earned the distinction last week for the second time.
Seton Hall is at Butler Sunday at 3 p.m. EST
DePaul is at Xavier Saturday at noon EST