It took 21 attempts, but the Loyola Ramblers (3-7) finally managed to beat the cross-town juggernaut DePaul Blue Demons (8-5) in a 88-75 shocker on Monday afternoon at McGrath Phillips Arena.
After beating a previously undefeated and 12th ranked Northwestern team on Saturday, a serious letdown was hoping to be avoided Monday afternoon, as DePaul’s women basketball team was simply outplayed by a well-coached Rambler team.
The Blue Demons saw an early 11-2 run washed away by sophomore guard Sam Lambrigsten’s slew of jump shots late in the first quarter, which propelled an 11-0 run to start the second quarter.
Loyola would stretch its lead to 11 after the first half. Really doing a good job of putting DePaul in positions where they had to force shots.
“Once you give a team the belief that they can win, a well-coached team will absolutely take advantage of that,” head Coach Doug Bruno said. “They might be the best 2-7 team in the country. Their record doesn’t show what kind of team they are. They’ve played a great schedule, just like we’ve played a great schedule.”
Coming into the Monday, the Ramblers played four teams from power five conferences, losing to an unbeaten Northwestern team by just nine points on Dec. 3.
Trailing 41-30 at half, the 30 points is the lowest point total for the Blue Demons this season.
DePaul, who as a team shoots around 45 percent from the field in 2015, was just 30 percent (12-40) from the floor in the opening half.
That number would improve in the third quarter, as they made eight of their 15 shots from the floor.
Facing an eight-point deficit with 8:06 left in the third, DePaul looked to their core of leaders to kick things into proper gear.
The usually solid shooting backcourt of Chanise Jenkins and Jessica January was average on Monday, shooting just 12-34 combined, while also turning the ball over three times each.
Combined, the Blue Demons coughed it up 15 times as a team, leading to 19 Rambler points.
A quick 8-0 run gave the Blue Demons some hope after trading buckets in the early parts of the third, but they were again met with a whirlwind of scoring from Loyola, who ended the quarter on another 11-0 run.
Loyola made it extremely tough for the Blue Demons to score from the perimeter, running them off the three point line whenever they could, and forcing mid-range, contested jump shots.
After trading some early buckets in the third, DePaul’s shots started falling, kickstarted by back-to-back threes from January and Podkowa, cutting the lead to four.
Senior Megan Podkowa, was met with double teams and plenty of traffic all day in the painted area. She did a fine job of passing out of those spots, gathering three assist in the quarter.
Defense however remained the issue for a duration of the third, as the Rambler lead bloomed to as many as 14, but remained at the eleven heading into the final period of play.
Scoring for Loyola was balanced all afternoon, with five players reaching double digits in the scoring column, two of them happening in the fourth quarter.
The way this DePaul team is wired, everyone in the building knew a furious fourth quarter run would be too much for the Ramblers.
No one on Loyola agreed.
The balanced scoring attack continued, as Lambrigsten, freshman guard to Dakota Vann, junior guard Taylor Johnson stayed patient, yet aggressive throughout the final period while continuing to find streaking players in the lanes and space in the open floor during plenty of fast break opportunities.
Junior Taylor Manuel tallied a double-double with ten points and twelve rebounds, adding to her solid season averages of 16 and seven on the year.
For DePaul, Senior Megan Podkowa followed up her career night on Saturday with a 15 point and eight rebound night, while Jenkins gathered 20 points and four assists. January chipped in with 16 points, six assists, and five rebounds.
Down 84-73 with: 56 left, the Blue Demons found not just their backs to the wall, but a significant blow to their national standings imminent.
“This is like third grade math,” Bruno said after the game. “You know, the cancellations when it comes to fractions and what not. We beat an excellent Texas A&M team, cancelled it out with a lost to South Dakota State. We beat a great Northwestern team the other day and we cancelled that out today.”
Bruno would go on to say that the difference between being really good and really average is decimals and that they were beaten by Loyola.
They didn’t just let this one slip away or make mental mistakes on their own – they were beaten.
Falling to a two-win team at home is sure to have an impact on DePaul as far their national standings are concerned, but the team will get back to the drawing board after a brief Christmas break and welcome Rice University to the McGrath Phillips Arena on Monday Dec. 28 night at 7 p.m.