DePaul Opens NIT with Old School Win

The DePaul Blue Demons (19-13) opened the National Invitiation Tournament with their first postseason game on the Lincoln Park campus in 17 years with a 83-71 win over the Hofstra Pride.

It was a throwback to old times as 4,056 DePaul faithful filled McGrath Arena to see the Blue Demons advance to the second round of the NIT.

DePaul's Wilson Chandler tied his career high with 26 points. Chandler only scored four points in the first half due to foul trouble, yet ended up going nine of 13 from the field. "He was fresh in the second half," said Blue Demons coach Jerry Wainwright. "I thought his energy was a big difference."

"(Chandler) is a big time player, he's a stud," said Hofstra coach Tom Pecora.

Senior Sammy Mejia chipped in with 16 points. But the surprise of the game was junior center Wesley Green's breakout performance with career highs of 15 points and 10 rebounds.

It had been so long since Green had appeared in a game for the Blue Demons, that DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright quipped that Wesley had been in the Witness protection program. "When I put Wesley Green in, I had three coaches say to me ‘Why Wes?'" said Wainwright. "He's had a really good week of practice. Certainly he was a game changer with his ability to pass the ball inside the zone. His ability to take some of the pressure off of Wilson Chandler changed the game."

"The reason he played tonight was for the last three weeks, he's practiced really hard," explained Wainwright. "I DNP'd him even after a hard practice, to try to make him feel like I feel. He's sitting there wondering why, just like I sometimes sit and wonder why. He certainly deserved a chance tonight and I thought he was terrific."

Green was happy to get into the game. "I've been waiting for this since the beginning of the year," said Wesley. "I didn't hang my head. I've been patiently waiting for my chance."

Playing this game on campus in front of a raucous crowd meant a lot to DePaul. "The noise and the environment of our McGrath Arena was really special," Wainwright expressed. "I think it meant a lot to our kids. I hope it meant a lot to our university. It was kind of a throwback game. It was kind of a neat thing. It will be a game that I'll always remember."

"It felt like a high school kind of game mixed with a college game," Mejia said. "The atmosphere was crazy."

Carlos Rivera led the way for the Pride with 22 points. Antoine Agudio contributed with 17. But, their leading scorer Loren Stokes was held to 10 points, which was 10 points below his average, by DePaul's defense. "I thought the atmosphere was awesome," said Pecora. "I thought it was a great college basketball atmosphere. I thought we played pretty hard. A couple of our guys didn't play their 'A' game. DePaul's defense had a lot to do with it. There were very well prepared for what we did."

"I think playing a team like Villanova prepared us for this game," said Mejia.

The Blue Demons now advance to the second round of the NIT where they will take on the Kansas State Wildcats on Monday night in Manhattan, Kansas. Kansas State defeated Vermont 59-57 earlier on Wednesday night.

Monday's game at Kansas State's Bramlage Coliseum has been set for an 8 p.m., tip Monday, March 19. The game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN nationally.

The winner of the Monday's game advances to the NIT quarterfinals to play either No. 1 seed Air Force (24-8) or No. 4 seed Georgia (19-13) on the higher seed's homecourt on March 20, 21 or 22.

Monday's meeting between the Blue Demons and Wildcats marks the sixth time the two teams have met. Kansas State leads the series 3-2 and won the last meeting 66-58, in the second round of the NCAA Midwest Region in South Bend, Indiana on the same date back in 1988. Monday's game is the first meeting in Manhattan since Feb. 22 1939. The Blue Demons won the 1939 meeting 34-30.

Kansas State (23-11) is making its first postseason tournament appearance since playing in the NIT 1999. The Wildcats are led by senior forward Cartier Martin, who averages 17.0 points per game and recorded 19 against Vermont in the first round of the NIT.

Tickets for all DePaul postseason games can be purchased through the DePaul Ticket Office located in the Sullivan Athletic Center at 2323 North Sheffield Ave or by calling 773-325-SLAM (7526). Reserved chairback seating can be purchased for $20 while bleacher seating is priced at $15.

Official Box Score

Postgame Audio

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