“This win is a testament of our players, and testament to our schedule.” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said after his team’s balanced 77-64 win over the previously unbeaten No. 12 Northwestern Wildcats (10-1) Saturday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The No. 16 Blue Demons (8-4) played a well-rounded Wildcat team extremely tough, holding them to just 35 percent shooting from the field – almost 10 percent lower than their 44 percent season average.
DePaul jumped out to an 18-8 lead, holding NU to a dreadful 2-17 from the field in the opening quarter.
Per usual, the nation’s leader in steals per game with 13.3, relied on its team speed on defense put the twelfth ranked Wildcats in some tough situations on the offensive side of the ball.
“We took a lot of tough shots,” Northwestern junior guard Christen Inman said. “We also didn’t execute when we did get those open looks, and it cost us.”
DePaul controlled the pace, and really did a good job of creating space and in turn, creating shots.
Senior Megan Podkowa would be benefit the most on this particular night.
Her 27 points – a new career high – came on 6-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, and 9-15 from the field overall.
“I really was just able to get a lot of open looks,” Podkowa said as she held back a cackle.
“When you’re that open, you really just have to shoot, and I was able to get in a nice rhythm with my jumpshot. The girls did a great job of finding me.”
The Glenview native continued her terror on the boards, as she pulled down 14 rebounds to go along with her game high 27 points. She’s averaging 8.1 per game.
The Blue Demons rank second in the country with 22.5 assists per game, and would eclipse that number on Saturday, collecting 25 of them.
The starting backcourt of Jessica January and Chanise Jenkins each had eight, respectively.
DePaul built it’s lead up to 16 with 5:15 left in the third, but would see it dissolve to just three after scoring only 5 points over the last five minutes of the quarter.
“We remembered last year and how we let that one slip away.” Podkowa said referring to last year’s 97-91 double overtime lost at the hands of these Wildcats.
Her team certainly did seem to remember, as they opened the fourth quarter with a 14-6 run, sparked by Junior Jessica January, who notched eight of her 10 points in the closing period.
After a tough 88-79 loss at South Dakota State earlier in the week, the team’s intensity was peaked and their response to Northwestern’s run was an example of that.
“This is really good team we were able to beat tonight,” Bruno said.
“This was another chance to show – on a national level – what we’re all about. Beating a well-coached team like this from a big time conference, on the road nonetheless.”
Bruno would later allude to the fact that they lost to a good team in South Dakota State, and this would be a chance to improve on what happened in that contest.
The all-time series between the two programs now sits at 16-16.
The 16th ranked Blue Demons will look to build on Saturday’s victory when they face another in-city rival, the Loyola Ramblers, at noon in McGrath Phillips Arena.