After an eight day layoff for DePaul women’s basketball (9-5, 1-0 Big East) was certainly looking to be sharp as they opened Big East Play on Tuesday night against the Marquette Golden Eagles (5-8, 0-1).
They were sharp, and also tested, as they found a way to defeat a young, talented, and on-the-rise Marquette team, 91-86.
“I’m proud of our team for gutting out a win like this,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said.
“I’m also really proud of Marquette, and the job coach Kieger has done as a young coach in her sophomore season, bringing in some great Freshman – and more importantly – playing a great non-conference schedule. Having the guts to play that sort of non-conference schedule the way she did is why the Big East has made even more strides this season.”
Yes, the highly touted freshman of Marquette were stellar, led by the league’s leading freshman scorer Allazia Blockton, whose 24 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists weren’t enough against the hardened backcourt of DePaul. She’s averaged 17.5 so far this year.
But DePaul had guards of their own to match. The usual suspects, senior Chanise Jenkins and junior Jessica January, were very aggressive in the opening half, tallying 13 points each.
The Blue Demons returned to their basics on Tuesday night, using turnovers to create more opportunities than the golden eagles, forcing nine in the first period, scoring off 10 points off of them. They forced 16 total Marquette turnovers in the contest.
DePaul’s stretched their lead to as many as 11 to start the second quarter, as the team really did a good job getting everyone involved.
Throughout the first half, DePaul did a good job of baiting the Golden Eagles into fouls. The number would jump to eight with over three minutes to play, putting DePaul in the bonus. Overall, were 13-for-15 from the line.
While the youth and athleticism of Marquette did pose some issues to the Blue Demons, they did a fine job of maintaining pace and getting shots they were comfortable with. And when things got tight at various points in the game, it was Jenkins and January who remained poise.
“We know what’s it feels like to lose,” Jenkins said after her season high 25-point performance.
“We’re experienced, we trust each and we trust our coach. We were focused coming down the stretch, we knew what we had to do, and we were ready.”
Blockton propelled the 12-2 run halfway through the third that boosted her team essentially for the rest of the game.
However, the resilient Blue Demons didn’t panic, answering with their own big run. This particular one being an 11-2 run in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter stayed true to the game’s trend, as Marquette rallied.
This rally was keyed by some heavy full court pressure, forcing quick, random turnovers for the home team.
Foul trouble would come into play early however, as the Golden Eagles committed their sixth foul at the 6:32 mark, putting DePaul at the line for two shots for the duration of the contest.
The final frame yielded some energy and real competitive fire from each side, as Marquette clawed all the way back to take a 1-point lead with 1:25 to play.
That wouldn’t last long, as Sophomore Ashton Millender drilled a three to put her team up two.
DePaul left the door open for Marquette one last time, as junior McKayla Yentz was fouled behind the three point line. She knocked down just one of three, giving DePaul the advantage and sending Jenkins and January to the charity stripe to seal the deal. The ice cold duo went 6-6 in the last 35 seconds of the game.
January finished with 21 points, five assists, and five rebounds. Megan Podkowa stayed steady, notching her sixth double-double of the year with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
For Marquette, their three leading scorers on the night were all freshman.
“We knew what Blockton had in the tank and she impressed,” Bruno said. “King, Wilborn, Davenport – they’re all impact freshman. They’re going to add some serious depth to this league for the next few years.”
Bruno would go on to praise the overall state of the Big East and expressed his level of satisfaction with his team so far.
The Blue Demons continue conference play on Jan. 3 on the road at St. Johns.