Blue Demons Top Hilltoppers 85-63

DePaul men's basketball coach Jerry Wainwright had said that Sammy Mejia will be a marked man for the Blue Demons this season. After tonight's 20 point performance opposing teams will have Mejia in their sites.

DePaul rolled over the St. Edward's Hilltoppers 85-63 in the exhibition season opener for both teams at the DePaul Athletic Center in Chicago. Wainwright went with a starting lineup of his veterans – Marlon Brumfield, Cliff Clinkscales, Karron Clarke, Marcus Heard, and Mejia.

The first half was close throughout due mostly to the aggressive defensive pressure the Hilltoppers placed on DePaul. Forward Lorenzo Thompson provided an energetic spark off the bench for DePaul in the first half by leading all scorers at half-time with 12 points off of two three-point field goals, two layups, and two free throws in just five minutes of play. The Hilltoppers trailed by just three at half-time 38-35.

The first four minutes of the second half remained close until DePaul forward Marcus Heard broke a 46-46 tie with a field goal that ignited an eight point run for the Demons. DePaul never trailed again.

DePaul's freshmen from the state of Michigan - Jabari Currie and Wilson Chandler made impressive debuts. Chandler finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Currie had 8 points and was two of four from three point range. "I thought Jabari and Wilson showed the athleticism that is necessary to play at this level," said Wainwright.

St. Edward's, a Division II school from Austin, Texas, was led by 6-7 center Jeff Obersteller who finished with 14 points. "(St. Edward's) Coach Marks had his kids really well prepared and they really played hard," said Wainwright. "That's a great exhibition game for us. It's a much higher level than you normally face. Those guys turned out to be really very representative of what college basketball should be."

Wainwright critiqued his team afterwards. "The hardest thing to do is to make sure your expectations are in line with your abilities," Jerry remarked. "Wesley Green hasn't played in two years. Karron Clarke hasn't played in a year. We've got a bunch of freshman. To tell you the truth all we've worked on is fundamentals. We really haven't done anything much with team play. Obviously we were ragged in a lot of areas of the game. I thought the kids' energy was good. Ultimately when you have the numbers of kids playing that we had, you wear other teams down a little bit. You cause some problems. We had some good spurts I thought because we had some fresh legs coming into the game."

Overall Wainwright came away satisfied with his team's defensive performance. "They shot 34%. They shot free throws very well. I thought our rebounding wasn't what it needs to be. We were out of position at times that caused us to foul. We contested the shots. So for a first game where they really hadn't had a lot of team exposure with a lot of different combinations, I thought it was as good as can be expected."

As DePaul's leading returning scorer, Mejia must feel the need to take on a leadership role with this team. "I've got confidence in my teammates," said Mejia. "I just feel that I need to be one of those lead guys in everything that goes on as far as energy and enthusiasm."

Despite his 20 points to lead all scorers, Mejia found time after the game to be critical of his performance. "I could've done a lot of things better," Sammy observed. "I should have passed the ball a little bit more and got a few guys involved in the game. I felt I did a pretty good job rebounding. There were a few times I should have had a better shot selection. I felt like I forced a few shots. Other than that I felt like I had an overall pretty decent game."

Mejia had better get used to being the marked man and taking on a lead role. If he continues to play like he did tonight, he will be a target for the opposition's defense.

Next Saturday the Blue Demons will wrap up their exhibition season with a game vs. Trinity Christian from Palos Heights, Illinois.

Official Box Score

Miscellaneous Game Note: St. Edward's coaching staff features former Kentucky and USC star Rodrick Rhodes as an assistant coach.

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