TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Sammy Mejia took control midway through the second half and helped DePaul score another key conference win.
Mejia scored 18 points and Draelon Burns added 16 as DePaul beat South Florida 75-62 on Saturday."I felt like when we moved Sam Mejia to the point, it kind of stabilized things," DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright said. "It just gave us a better matchup with the kid's we had."Mejia had six points and a nifty assist on Marcus Heard's layup during a 15-6 run that put DePaul (16-11, 7-6 Big East) ahead 59-50 with 5 1/2 minutes left."We just came out and tried to run our offense more and it got us in a groove," Burns said. "Coach really hung with us and told us we should play this game like any other one because if we lose this one it will be a tough loss."DePaul preserved the victory by hitting 14 of 16 free throws -- including a 7-for-8 performance by Burns -- during the final 4 1/2 minutes of play."This team could go very far because we still haven't reached our best basketball," Burns said. "That's what we're practicing to get to, and it's coming."McHugh Mattis scored 18 points for South Florida (12-15, 3-10). Kentrell Gransberry had 15 points and seven rebounds.After it's fourth straight conference loss, there is a possibility that South Florida could be eliminated from the race to make the Big East Conference Championship tournament before playing again next Saturday at Seton Hall."We just have to come out ready for practice and just lay it all out on the line," Mattis said. "We just have to stay positive and go out and play."South Florida had 19 turnovers, compared to 11 for DePaul. The 19 turnovers resulted in 20 points by DePaul."That's a big difference in the game," South Florida coach Robert McCullum said.Mejia had eight points in the first half, helping DePaul take a 29-26 halftime lead. Mattis scored two of his nine points during the opening half on a rebound basket at the buzzer.