Over the course of the last month, DePaul women’s basketball team has accomplished plenty that merits celebration.
The Blue Demons captured the regular season Big East title, the Big East championship, overcame blowing a 19-point lead to beat Oklahoma and, most impressively, beat No. 9 Duke on Duke’s home court to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
There’s been plenty of reflection for the team in that time and many moments to celebrate. Thursday morning, a group of people packed the lobby of McGrath-Phillips Arena in another celebration. Students, alumni and staff all rallied to wish DePaul off to Lincoln, Neb., where they will play Texas A&M to try and advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.
In the midst of celebration, head coach Doug Bruno made one point clear to the crowd.
“This is a business trip,” Bruno said. “We will take care of business this Saturday against a very talented Southeastern Conference team.”
It was a bold statement to the crowd, but make no mistake: Bruno has his team focused headed into Saturday’s matchup with Texas A&M.
“This group has been really good about focus,” Bruno said. “We are where we’re at today because they have allowed themselves to be coached…I’m really more concerned about the guard play and athleticism of Texas A&M.”
Texas A&M (25-8) are indeed an athletic group. They average 70.2 points per game and hold opponents to 58.9, good for a differential of +11.4. They have the second-best field goal percentage defense in the SEC, next to South Carolina.
Aggie guard Courtney Walker and forward Courtney Williams led the team as sophomores, averaging 15.4 points per game and 13.8 points per game.
“I think our guards match up very favorably with theirs, but they’ve got depth in the guard play,” Bruno said. “Not only is (starting guard Jordan) Jones a good player, but (Walker) is a great player as well. There’s two of them that are quality players and are playing very well right now.”
DePaul’s own guard Chanise Jenkins said it was a matter of an executing the game-plan.
“We’re here on business and we’re trying to win a game,” Jenkins said. “Everybody else is on spring break, but we’re trying to finish out our spring break with a win.”
Jenkins has had her own time to reflect on this historic Blue Demons season. She pointed out how even after the Oklahoma game on March 22 that the team watched film to look at their mistakes in preparation for Duke. The team is constantly learning, she said.
“In order to stay in the moment and keep winning games, we just have to listen and stay focused at the task on hand,” Jenkins said.
DePaul and Texas A&M square off at 6 p.m. CST Saturday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“It doesn’t matter where we go, we’re going to have fun,” Bruno said. “But one of the most important aspects of fun is looking at the scoreboard at the end of game and seeing DePaul with a score over their opponent.”