No. 21 DePaul women’s basketball finished opening weekend with another high-scoring victory as they defeated Alabama-Birmingham 90-80 in the championship game of the Maggie Dixon Classic. The Blue Demons improved to 2-0 on the season.
Senior guard Jessica January led the game with 25 points while junior guard Ashton Millender put in 21 herself.
“I’ve been saying about this team from the get-go that I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “But at the same time we’ve had a disconcerted beginning of preseason practice and I think it shows on the floor.
The Blue Demons showed plenty of both sides on Saturday night. They opened up the first quarter with a 7-0 run and held the lead for most of the quarter, but the Blazers started to climb back. DePaul led 19-16 at the end of the quarter, having shot only 29 percent overall.
The second quarter was better for the Blue Demons as they extended their lead back and then some to take a 46-33 lead into the break. Still, transition defense was a problem for the Blue Demons and UAB took advantage to remain within striking distance.
“There are some things we do very well,” Bruno said. “But we are not at the place of precision we need to be in our half-court execution on both sides of the ball.”
The second half started well for DePaul as they opened up with six quick points and were shooting better, as well as playing better defense. They stretched their lead out by ten more points and were up 70-47 at the end of the third quarter.
In the final quarter, the Blazers showed some life and started to hit crucial shots as the minutes wound down. They cut the lead down to ten with two and a half minutes to go in the game.
“UAB did a great job of coming back down the stretch,” Bruno said. “They were fearless, they came after us and they did a great job coming back at us.”
DePaul, however, was able to put up some points and keep the Blazers at bay to win the game 90-80. Injuries played a key role in this game as it gave the Blue Demons a small bench during this two-day tournament.
“We’re still very not whole,” Bruno said. “That’s something that we have to keep pounding away at in the midst of what’s going to become a really rugged schedule.”
The injuries included freshman guard Kelly Campbell, who only played ten minutes in Friday’s game, and Lauren Prochaska, who missed the entire weekend with a concussion. This is on top of junior forward Mart’e Grays being out for the year with a torn Achilles.
This also forced a lot of playing time for the starters. January played 38 minutes and Millender put in 34. However, having the upperclassmen leaders on the floor, January said, helped stop the Blazers’ late run.
“I just think with this game, when UAB was making a run at us, I think everybody on the floor was taking ownership and being leaders themselves,” January said. “I think the most important part was communicating and being vocal and trying to fix our defensive possessions.”
The Blue Demons host Northwestern next Saturday in an inter-city matchup.