WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- Jerry Wainwright finally had a
successful return to Wake Forest.
Sammy Mejia scored a season-high 24 points -- including a basket
to answer a late Wake Forest run in the final seconds -- and DePaul
beat the 16th-ranked Demon Deacons 84-81 on Tuesday night to snap
their 21-game home winning streak.
Draelon Burns added a career-high 22 points in his first start
of the season for the Blue Demons (5-3), who gave Wainwright his
first win in six tries against the program where he spent nine
seasons as an assistant.
Eric Williams scored 24 points for the Demon Deacons (7-2), who
looked rusty after an extended layoff en route to the rare home
loss. Wake Forest was tied with Utah for the nation's fifth-longest
home winning streak and had won 28 straight home nonconference
Wainwright was an assistant at Wake Forest from 1985-94 under
Bob Staak and Dave Odom before taking over at North
Carolina-Wilmington. He spent eight seasons there and three seasons
at Richmond, with his teams playing the Demon Deacons in each of
the past four seasons.
His Richmond teams had lost games by an average of 16 points
here in each of the past two seasons. This time -- thanks largely to
Mejia and Burns -- he was able to leave with a win.
"The biggest thing, when you play teams like this, you've got
to stand in the middle of the ring," Wainwright said. "You cannot
get on your heels. I told them before the game, 'We're going to get
knocked down, you've got to get back up.' And I thought the kids
did a good job of that."
Mejia came in averaging a team-high 14 points, and shot 9-for-15
with three 3-pointers. He also played tough defense against Wake
Forest's Justin Gray, an all-Atlantic Coast Conference performer
who finished with 12 points on 3-for-11 shooting.
Meanwhile, Burns got the start because second-leading scorer
Karron Clarke was sidelined after spraining his right ankle at
Monday's practice. The sophomore finished 8-for-14 from the field
and hit three 3s after averaging almost eight points off the bench.
"I didn't get the word that I was starting until today, but I
kind of figured that's what would happen," Burns said. "I wasn't
nervous to step up tonight."
The tandem took advantage of a Wake Forest team that had not
played since a 78-59 win over Elon on Dec. 3, and didn't practice
as a team last week due to exams. The rust showed as the Demon
Deacons were outrebounded for the first time this season.
They also allowed DePaul to shoot 52 percent -- the first time an
opponent had shot 50 percent this year -- and hit just 19 of 32 free
Gray wasn't the only one of Wake Forest's top players to
struggle. Trent Strickland came in averaging 16 points and nine
rebounds, but finished with 12 points and four rebounds on 4-for-9
And Williams just couldn't turn a very good performance into a
dominating one. He was virtually unstoppable inside, scoring 10
points on 5-for-5 shooting in the first 3½ minutes, but he finished
just 6-for-14 at the line.
"They came out from the jump wanting to win," Strickland said.
"They crashed the boards hard, they did everything a lot harder
than we did. ... They just wanted this game harder than we did
DePaul went ahead to stay when Cliff Clinkscales left Harvey
Hale standing with an excellent crossover dribble and drove to the
basket for a 52-50 lead with about 14 minutes left. That started a
seven-point spurt by the Blue Demons, who maintained that lead the
rest of the game.
Trailing 78-67 with 2:53 left, the Demon Deacons made a late
push to close within 80-78 on Michael Drum's 3-pointer with 46
seconds left. But -- as he had done all night -- Mejia answered. With
his team holding the ball and the shot clock winding down, Mejia
drove on Strickland and knocked down a turnaround jumper with 12
seconds left for an 82-78 lead.
Mejia then added two free throws after being fouled on a rebound
of a missed 3-pointer by Gray to seal the win.
Maryland point guard Melo Trimble, considered a lock to leave the program before struggling in the second half last season, has withdrawn from the NBA draft and will return for his junior season.
Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku, who recently underwent a medical procedure to correct a heart rhythm issue detected during the combine, will keep his name in the NBA draft pool.
Andrew White III will return to the Nebraska men's basketball team next season after removing his name from the NBA draft.