Following a thwomping of IU Northwest from DePaul’s men’s team, the women’s team followed suit with a 128-77 win over the Saint Xavier Cougars on Nov. 5. After the starters for the Cougars where announced to the tune of the Star Wars empire theme, DePaul’s starters came running out as red and blue circles flew around the arena floor: Kelly Campbell, Mart’e Greys, Ashton Millender and Tonita Allen. After the game, head coach Doug Bruno would say this will probably be the starting lineup for the first game, but nothing is guaranteed.
Early in the game, a DePaul miscommunication on how to cover a screen lead to a wide open layup for Saint Xavier’s Brittany Collins. She hit the ball too hard off the backboard and it rolled out. After grabbing the rebound, DePaul pushed the ball up court and it found an open Campbell behind the arc on the right wing. She swished the three-pointer to give DePaul the 3-0 lead and officially opened the scoring for women’s basketball in Wintrust arena, an important moment for Bruno.
“Never, when you are coaching a basketball game, does it matter who gets the first basket, but it was really important Xavier didn’t,” Bruno said. “I told them ‘I don’t care which one of you scores the first basket for DePaul, but DePaul has to score the first basket’.”
The scoring would be as slow as it would get, and as even, for the first three minutes as Xavier broke DePaul’s full court press for an easy two, making it 6-6. DePaul then began forcing turnovers and turning them into easy transition points. DePaul would outscore the Cougers 22-10 for the final seven minutes, ending with a pull-up elbow jumper from Amarah Coleman as the buzzer sounded to give the Demons a 28-16 lead.
“I feel like we just out ran them, our pressure kicked in (…) they got tired,” said Rebekah Dahlman, who lead the Blue Demon’s with 21 points.
The Demon’s pressure forced a whopping 38 turnovers from Xavier, including 27 steals. DePaul would never look back, outscoring Xavier by nine in quarter two and taking a 61-36 lead to halftime. The second quarter saw freshman Rachel McLimore get her first action, subbing in at the five minute and forty second mark. On her one of her first offensive possessions she drew a foul and hit both free throws and would later hit a lay-up for her first field goal. She would finish the game 1-6 with two rebounds and one assist in 14 minutes of action, the most out of the freshman.
Fellow freshman Vinisha Sherrod finished 1-8 in eight minutes and Big East preseason freshman of the year De Bekelja tallied eight points on 4-6 shooting in her nine minutes. We don’t know how much we will get to see them in the regular season, but Bruno thinks they can help.
“The freshman are all players that are going to help us, it’s just how much, how soon. You saw little glimpses of them, but they are still in the deer in the headlights phase at this moment,” Bruno said. “We’ll try and get the freshman some minutes (..) when they are out there with some more veteran players.”
One of those veteran players is Tanita Allen. Last season’s Big East sixth-woman of the year has made the jump to the starting line-up. She took advantage of her minutes against the Cougars, amassing 20 points on 7-10 shooting and 4-7 from three. Always a stout defender, she added five steals, tied for second most on the team. Now that Jessica January, Jaqui Grant and Brooke Shulte are gone, Allen was asked if she thought there was an increased scoring burden on her.
“I feel like it’s more than just me. It’s more of a team effort,” Allen said. “We end up getting each other better.”
After the game, despite the large margin of victory, Bruno noted some things to work on. As a small team he said they always need rebounding to be a focal point and that the team chemistry, while present, is still molding with four players in the rotation that did not play last season. Dahlman, who played 20 minutes said she was feeling tired at the end, and old; As a graduate transfer, she is old by college standards.
Bruno could not end the post-game press conference without mentioning how much he loved Wintrust, where the team will play six of its home games. He said he will always enjoy playing in McGrath, but why have one home court advantage when you can have two.
“The fact that we are playing in two places, we can look at it as a negative or look at it as a positive and we are choosing to look at it as a positive,” Bruno said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to showcase the game of women’s basketball in a great location here in the south loop. And we will still bring vibrancy on campus in McGrath-Phillips Arena.”