No. 24 DePaul women’s basketball is first in a lot of categories in the Big East. They lead the conference in scoring margin, assists, steals, turnover margin, defense rebounders and 3-pointers.
Simply put, the Blue Demons are used to leading.
And with a dominant 75-53 win over Georgetown Friday, the Blue Demons led with defense.
The Blue Demons (16-5, 4-0 Big East) held the Hoyas to just 20 points in the second half and to 25 percent shooting in the half. It was a commanding effort that resulted in DePaul pulling away from Georgetown, dominating the half 41-20.
“What’s interesting about tonight is that our players were ready to play, but we didn’t get off to the quick and efficient start that we wanted to,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “(In the second half,) we got the game back in our tempo and got full court execution out of our defense.
“It turned into a really good second half and it’s always a tribute to these players.”
DePaul forced 14 turnovers and had eight steals, but it was a season-high five blocks that set the tone for the Blue Demons. They allowed just 18 points in the paint, an impressive mark considering the Blue Demons often went small.
Georgetown (9-6, 2-3) got off to a fast start, jumping out to an 11-4 lead and it seemed like the Blue Demons might have been in danger of another unexpected home loss. DePaul is a commanding 8-2 at home this season, but the two losses have been to No. 1 UConn and a then-2-7 Loyola. It was the loss to Loyola on Dec. 21 that shocked.
But the Blue Demons did everything to make sure another upset didn’t happen. DePaul forward Megan Podkowa said the team knew coming out of halftime they needed to finish.
DePaul remained patient and stayed committed to its full-court press, which eventually broke down Georgetown’s offense. In the third quarter, DePaul’s defense sparked a 13-0 run and they finished the quarter holding the Hoyas to just eight points.
“I thought Jess (January) did a really good job in the press, getting her hands on everything,” Podkowa said. “She was all over the court tonight. Her energy really helped that third quarter run.”
January had a double-double with 11 points and a season-high 11 rebounds. It was another impressive performance for the junior guard, who had a triple double on Tuesday against Seton Hall. January was the first DePaul player to record a triple-double since 1989.
Podkowa, too, had a stellar game with 19 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks. The six assists were a career high.
“We had previous games where we could have blown open leads but we didn’t,” January said. “We really wanted to take advantage of that tonight.”
DePaul led by as many as 28, leading 71-43 with 4:39 left in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Demons also got an unexpected boost from sophomore guard Lauren Prochaska, who — despite having only three points — made the necessary hustle plays and controlled the second unit. Add in sophomore guard Ashton Millender’s 11 points, and the Blue Demons’ bench showed a new layer of depth it hadn’t in previous games.
DePaul’s bench will be key going forward, Bruno said.
“What people don’t understand about Prochaska is that no one can keep her from getting to the rim,” Bruno said. “She can guard some of the quickest, fastest players in the country. Now, she has to get the confidence to finish at the rim. She finished one 3-point play tonight, but she was really valuable to us.
“We got some positive bench play from Prochaska and Milliender, but there’s got to be more of it,” Bruno said.
DePaul returns Sunday at 3 p.m. against Villanova.