No. 20 DePaul women’s basketball (3-0) passed their first big test of the season with flying colors as they took out the Northwestern Wildcats (3-1) 89-66.
Senior guard Jessica January led the game with 25 points to give the Blue Demons the victory in the Chicago rivalry game, which Northwestern won last season in double overtime.
“We had won two of the last three coming into tonight,” Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown said. “I’m disappointed but also it’s great for the city of Chicago and great for Chicago women’s basketball to play these games. It’s not a rivalry unless you beat each other.”
Northwestern was missing first-team All American Nia Coffey, which had an impact on the game. However, DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said Northwestern was still very formidable.
“The other night against Missouri State they had their most productive offensive night of the year,” he said. “You don’t just say this is going to be okay because Nia Coffey is out. This is a game we were really concerned about.”
The first half was very up-tempo as the teams took turns with the lead. The Wildcats were shooting very well at 48 percent in the first half, while DePaul was in the mid-20s in shooting percentage until the end of the half. What kept the Blue Demons in the game was their offensive rebound advantage, where they held an 8-3 lead at the break.
“The first 15 minutes we were really a team in disarray,” Bruno said. “We were really terrible on offense. Then the team settled down for the last few minutes of the half. We’re still a work in progress and trying to find ourselves.”
In the final minutes of the second quarter, DePaul went on a 13-1 run that quickly erased a small Wildcat lead and gave the Blue Demons a 38-30 lead at halftime. January was controlling the game with 12 points, three assists and four steals. The Blue Demons ended up with a 37 percent shooting rate at the end of the half, as well as a 21-17 rebound lead.
The third quarter saw the Blue Demons pull away further. After an initial run that brought the Wildcats to within four, DePaul took the game back over and put an exclamation point on the quarter with a buzzer-beating three from January. The Blue Demons led 67-52 at the end of the third quarter.
The Blue Demons went on another double-digit run in the fourth quarter that saw them extend their lead to thirty. It was complete control for the Blue Demons as they finished with a 89-66 victory.
Bruno said that, even though the Blue Demons were in disarray in the first quarter, he was happy with the performance of January during that time.
“She’s a special player and she stepped up big,” Bruno said. “Not only as a player, but in the leadership factor. She held her composure together while the staff and the players were figuring things out.”
January gave the credit to her teammates, past and present, for her evolution as a leader.
“I have really good teammates and as a senior having other leaders before me like Chanise Jenkins and Brittany Hrynko helped me a lot,” she said. “Like I said, I have really good teammates so it’s not that hard.”
Next up for the Blue Demons is a trip to Florida, where they’ll participate in the Gulf Coast Showcase. They’ll open up the tournament with Western Kentucky on Friday at 12:30 p.m, then will either play Kent State or Baylor on the next day. On Sunday they’ll play in the third round of the tournament against any possibly four teams.