Ugly second half dooms Kansas

The No. 5 Jayhawks blow a late lead to fall to unranked DePaul.
Sunday, December 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:25 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

ROSEMONT, Ill. — No carryover for Kansas. One week after beating defending national champion Florida, the Jayhawks stumbled against DePaul, a team looking for an identity of its own.

Sammy Mejia scored eight straight points in the final 3 minutes to spark a 14-0 run, hitting the tying and go-ahead 3-pointers, and DePaul rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit to stun the fifth-ranked Jayhawks 64-57 Saturday.

“Florida was good for us. But still yet it wasn’t the thing that fixed everything because you still have to come to work every day and practice and prepare,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose team lost earlier this season at home to Oral Roberts. “And we’re not very good at that yet.”

DePaul was behind 53-45 with 4:39 left before Mejia brought the Blue Demons all the way back before a frenetic crowd at All-State Arena.

“It was an opportunity to prove yourself and that’s what today’s game was,” Mejia said. “Even when we were down nine at the half, we were confident we would win the game no matter how much down.”

His 3-pointer tied it at 53 with 3:02 left and after a missed free throw by Brandon Rush, he hit another 3 to give DePaul a 56-53 lead with 2:10 to go.

After a Jayhawks miss, the Blue Demons (3-4) ran the shot clock down and Mejia hit a jumper from the baseline with 1:18 left.

“I just decided to be more aggressive. I don’t want to say I was laid back, but things were not going my way,” said Mejia, who fought off leg cramps during the game. “I just stuck with it.”

Russell Robinson of Kansas missed from the line and DePaul’s Marcus Heard sank one foul shot with 1:07 remaining to make it 59-53.

Mejia finished with 23 points to lead DePaul. Mario Chalmers had 15 for Kansas (6-2), which shot only 35 percent in the second half. DePaul shot 54 percent in the final 20 minutes after shooting 26 percent in the first half. Rush, averaging 13.6 points, was held to just three.

Kansas made six of eight free throws in the second half to 17-of-24 for DePaul. But Self, who coached three seasons at Illinois and secured top players from the Chicago area in Julian Wright and Sherron Collins, wasn’t complaining.

“We didn’t play good defense without fouling,” he said. “If we had taken advantage of our opportunities when (we) had the ball early in the second half, we could have kept them at arm’s length.”

The Jayhawks’ loss came two days after coach Self got a five-year contract extension that bumps up his annual compensation to more than $1.3 million.

DePaul saluted legendary coach Ray Meyer, who died at age 92 in March, with halftime and pregame ceremonies involving his family and former players. Meyer coached 42 years at DePaul and had 724 victories with the Blue Demons.

Current DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright called Meyer “the real coach at DePaul, the only coach at DePaul. Anybody who followed coach Meyer is a caretaker of the program. What coach Meyer did was make these kind of games possible.”

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