DePaul Comes Up Short at Pittsburgh 73-65

The DePaul Blue Demons took their first trip to Pittsburgh as members of the Big East conference on Thursday night. The Pitt Panthers came up the victor in a 73-65 come from behind win.

DePaul jumped out to a 21-8 lead just seven minutes into the game, but Pittsburgh fought back to trail 32-29 at halftime. Freshman forward Wilson Chandler racked up 13 points in the first half.

Pitt dominated the second half assuming a 43-41 lead with 13 minutes in the game. They never trailed after that point. Pitt big man Aaron Gray lead all scorers with 20 points.

Guard Carl Krauser finished with 19 points. DePaul's Sammy Mejia talked about the challenge of guarding the Pitt senior. "I've known him for a couple years," said Mejia. "I feel like in the first half I did a good job on him. In the second half he pulled away and then was able to feed off the momentum of the crowd."

Chandler and junior Sammy Mejia lead the way for DePaul with 15 points apiece. Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon complimented Chandler's performance. "He's great in transition, beating guys down the floor," said Dixon. "He got some easy buckets early that we were able to adjust to. I thought he also hit some tough shots in the first half that didn't drop for him as the game progressed. But Levon (Kendall) and Sam (Young) also did a great job matching up with him."

Free throws played a role in this game as Pitt went to the charity stripe 20 more times than DePaul and shot 71% from the line.

Eleventh ranked Pitt remained undefeated at 13-0, while DePaul fell to 8-6.

Wesley Green returned for DePaul after a month long absence due to a strained right foot. Green scored six on three of 13 shooting from the field.

Dixon was pleased with his team's performance coming off of an eight day break in action. "This was a great win for us. I think we were anxious at first and rushed a bit," said Dixon. "But we calmed down and played a great last 30 minutes. They're a very good team, ranked 19th in the RPI, so they're battle tested and very well coached. Their size and versatility make them hard to play against. I thought we did a good job offensively, especially running the clock at the end and getting great shots towards the end of possessions. Our defense still has a long way to go though."

"I was proud of our guys, I thought we had a really solid effort," said DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright. "We were in a position to win the game. I am really pleased with our progress. Pitt is a solid basketball team. I thought we played exceptionally well under trying circumstances."

Wainwright feels that his team is still inexperienced. "We were starting two sophomores for awhile," Wainwright remarked. "The problem is those kids' roles change when the older kids leave. There's a lot of young players at Pitt getting great experience right now but what will they be like when Carl (Krauser) leaves. That's always the question mark. It's never experience that wins, it's what you do with your experience. We need to add more depth and we need to add some weight to our younger players."

"I characterized Jamie`s team as solid," Wainwright stated. "We're not good enough yet to get somebody out of their style. We don't have the depth, especially at the guard spot to get somebody out of their game. We wanted to be solid like they are. It's a lot to ask to beat somebody at their own game, especially at home. I couldn't ask for anything more from our kids."

This was the first matchup between the Blue Demons and Panthers as conference rivals. "We only played them once in our history," said Dixon. "Which was really surprising when I heard that. We talked about scheduling them a couple years ago. We were pretty close to getting something done - a home and home. Then the conference realigned as it did."

While DePaul and Pitt only played once in the last 100 years, Dixon does not feel that DePaul was new to him. "We're very familiar with their players," Dixon expressed. "We recruited a lot of them. So, there's a lot of familiarity there. Coach Wainwright, we played against when he was at Richmond last season. So there's a lot of familiarity with Coach Wainwright. It doesn't feel like a team that we hadn't played before."

Dixon was also familiar with DePaul from the time that his sister Maggie spent as an assistant coach with the women's basketball team. "I know (Athletic Director) Jeannie (Lenti-Ponsetto) and the whole group over there," Dixon said. "Maggie loved her five years there. I visited there often and enjoyed it every time."

Dixon respects how DePaul prepared themselves for Big East league play with their competitive non-conference schedule. "DePaul by far played the toughest schedule in our league," remarked Dixon.

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