DePaul, just like in the Wake Forest game, went on a late game run, a 7-0 run to erase a five point deficit and beat California 68-65. Cal star Leon Powe missed the front end of two free throws with 2.8 seconds to go that would have potentially tied the game for the Golden Bears. With the score 67-65, Powe drew a foul on Karron Clarke with 2.8 seconds to go. Powe missed the first free throw. He tried to intentionally miss the second one, but he missed the rim entirely and DePaul got the ball back. Sammy Mejia was fouled with 1.2 and iced the game, hitting one of two free throws.
Mejia led the way with 20 points, while Jabari Currie and Draelon Burns scored 13 each. Clarke had only eight points and fouled out, but played excellent defense on Powe, in part limiting the star to 13 points and 8 rebounds. Wilson Chandler also did a stellar job on the defensive end with 11 rebounds and three blocks, a couple of the spectacular variety.
A fairly subdued crowd of 8,200 (certainly looked smaller than that) was treated to a very lackluster effort by Princeton in Game 1 of the doubleheader versus Stanford. The crowd wasn't much louder for the second game, save for a timeout in the second half where the sponsors gave away a Tivo machine. Perhaps most of them were saving their energy for the Carrie Underwood concert that followed. Too bad she decided to cancel.
DePaul broke out to a big early lead. Marlon Brumfield, not known for his offense, made two early baskets and a Draelon Burns' three gave DePaul a 14-5 lead six minutes into the game. DePaul played a very active and tight 2-3 zone, keying on Powe inside and Richard Midgely outside, daring California and its other guards Ayinde Ubaka and Omar Wilkes to hit its outside shots. The zone bothered Cal a great deal and was very effective against a Cal team that wasn't hitting its outside shots initially. Cal also looked to have a great deal of rust as well in the early going, coming from an 11 day layoff for final exams. During the middle of the first half, DePaul switched back to a man to man. Once this happened, Powe got two quick baskets and DePaul went back to a 2-3 right away. Cal also started to get inside more, culminating with a 14 to 0 advantage in free throws at halftime.
Mejia went out of the game at the 5:53 mark on a ticky-tack foul on a rebound and DePaul up 23-18. Cal immediately went on a 6-0 run to go up 24-23 before a Clarke putback stemmed the tide. DePaul trailed 31-29 at the end of the half. DePaul shot 41% in the first half, on 13-32 shooting. Jabari Currie had eight points and Sammy Mejia had seven points at the half.
In the second half, DePaul made a more concerted effort to go inside more, which paid dividends as DePaul got to the foul line 11 times in the second half. In addition, DePaul had 20 points in the paint in the second half, as opposed to 12 in the first half. "We were standing around a lot in the first half, so we made it a point to have more movement and get the ball inside more," said Coach Wainwright. Another key adjustment at halftime – DePaul went with Clarke to shadow Powe on the defensive end. "Though Clarke is 6'5"/6'6", he's very strong and athletic, and we thought that Karron could do some things to help us on the defensive end of Powe," said Wainwright on a question pertaining to halftime adjustments.
DePaul went on a 7-0 run to take a 44-42 lead early in the second half, with a three pointer and another basket by Mejia, followed by a basket by Wilson Chandler. But then California's Ubaka got on fire in the second half, hitting three 3 pointers in a short span and made a couple of brilliant inside passes. Mejia however almost single-handedly kept DePaul within striking range with a number of key baskets on drives and long range shots in the second half. Mejia wound up with 20 points. "We knew we had a height advantage over their guards and I just tried to take advantage of it as much as I could," said Mejia.
With just under four minutes to go, Jabari Currie scored on post up layup to cut the lead to 63-60. After a Cal turnover, Draelon Burns made two free throws to cut the lead to 63-62 with 2:35 remaining. Burns then scored on a driving layup with a bit over two minutes to go to give DePaul the lead 64-63, a lead they would never relinquish. Leon Powe then tried to drive and was met by stiff resistance from DePaul's defense. Burns stole the ball and Chandler then scored on a 2-on-1 fast break to give DePaul the lead 66-63 and DePaul had the game seemingly in control with the momentum.
With the score 66-65, Mejia missed the back end of two free throws with 20.7 to go to give Cal the ball with 14.7 seconds to go with a chance to tie. After a Cal turnover, Sammy had another chance to ice the game but missed the front end of a one-and-one. Cal brought the ball down, where Leon Powe got fouled with 2.8 seconds to go and missed his two free throws that would have tied the game.
Game Notes and Quotes:
"Wesley Green is scheduled to have an MRI sometime over the Christmas holiday period. He is in a boot now and is resting in Florida right now. Wes' mother ‘has him in handcuffs now'," said Wainwright, obviously a reference to his eating habits. Sammy Mejia was optimistic about Wes' situation, thinking that he should be back really soon.
"Going 3-1 says a lot about the future," said Wainwright. "It's like rebuilding a house – there's some parts that will take more than others." Coach Wainwright was talking in reference to the up and down year that DePaul has had.
"Saturday was just a bad day," said Mejia. "Everyone was really tired from the Wake Forest game and the plane trip back and forth. We were much more focused and rested for this game."
Official Box Score
DePaul Edges Out California 68-65
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