Having a week off in between games before their first game in the Big East tournament, there was no let down for DePaul women’s basketball in terms of energy.
From the first few minutes of Sunday’s game against Xavier, it was apparent that the Blue Demons’ signature speed and pace would be just as effective as it was during the regular season.
Jessica January scored 16 points, Brittany Hrynko had 13 and Chanise Jenkins added 12 as the Blue Demons cruised 87-53 at Allstate Arena Sunday over Xavier in their first matchup of the Big East tournament.
The win put DePaul (24-7, 15-3 Big East) in the semifinal for the second year in a row and they improved to 10-0 in opening games of the Big East tournament.
“It’s all about focus this time of year, and I was really proud of our players’ focus and ready to go,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “Just because we had a couple of wins over them doesn’t guarantee a third win. It’s really important that your players understand the focus of the moment, and our players understood it.”
DePaul (24-7, 15-3 Big East) knocked down 10 3-pointers in the first half while Xavier made just one, good for a 27-point difference. The Blue Demons offense started to click five minutes in, going on an 11-0 run over a three-minute stretch where DePaul went 7-for-7 to take a 23-10 lead.
“Coach always says he gives us a good offense to run, but it’s also about the players that run it,” January said. “I thought we did a good job of spacing the floor, attacking the rim and getting it out to our shooters.”
DePaul shot 48 percent, including a staggering 58 percent in the first half. The Blue Demons went into the locker room with a 48-23 lead, capped off with a January 3-pointer in the final seconds.
In the second half, DePaul continued to cruise. While they weren’t as sharp offensively, the Blue Demons’ full court press wore Xavier down. Xavier avoided turnovers in the frontcourt, but it was the half court where the Musketeers coughed up the ball.
DePaul forced 31 Xavier turnovers, scoring 30 points off of them.
“DePaul, they play competently a very fast level,” Xavier head coach Brian Neal said. “And when we play at a fast level, it’s incompetent. It’s bad decision making. And so that’s where we’ve got to learn to adjust to a faster speed.”
Xavier guards Kindell Fischer and Alliyah Zantt each led the Musketeers with 12 points, but the Musketeers shot 35 percent as a whole.
The Blue Demons led by as many as 35 points, ahead with 76-41 with 7:45 remaining. Not soon after, Bruno decided to rest his starters.
All 10 of DePaul’s active players managed to get in the score column with four of those scoring in double figures. Brooke Schulte had 11 of DePaul’s 31 bench points.
“The pressure that we use, it’s very important at the end of the night, to keep the minutes (fresh),” Bruno said. “That’s what makes league tournament basketball even different the NCAA tournament. You still get the day in between. Conference tournament basketball is one game in a row three times. It’s a really different style of basketball.”
The No. 2 seeded Blue Demons return Monday at 8 p.m. tomorrow against the winner of Villanova and Xavier.