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High intensity leads women’s basketball

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Sophomore guard Lauren Prochaska drives to the basket. (Photo by Josh Leff \ The DePaulia)

Sophomore guard Lauren Prochaska drives to the basket. (Photo by Josh Leff \ The DePaulia)

When DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno analyzes a season, he looks at progress in three different pillars.

The first is to learn how to win. The Blue Demons are off to a strong start in that regard. DePaul is 12-5, 4-0 to start the Big East and ranked No. 24 in the country.

The second, Bruno said, is to learn how to handle winning.  To Bruno that means not getting ahead of themselves, not letting up leads and getting too happy when they win.

But it’s the third pillar that will test the Blue Demons for the last half of the season, and will be telling if DePaul can make history in advancing beyond the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament.

“Really good teams learn how to win and learn how to handle winning, and then they learn how to grow themselves while winning,” Bruno said. “Yes, it’s great for coaches to talk about learning from losses … however, it’s also very nice to learn from winning.

“We’re trying to get better with each practice, each repetition, each possession, so we can grow this team and not be just satisfied with what happened the other night.”

There have certainty been moments this season that have tested the Blue Demons. They’ve already faced six teams ranked in the Top 25, going 3-3 in those games.  The Blue Demons have commanding wins over then-ranked No. 12 Northwestern and No. 15 Texas A&M, and even pushed No. 1 UConn and No. 2 Notre Dame.

Yet, the Blue Demons have also been tested in unexpected moments. On Monday, Dec. 21, DePaul suffered an uncharacteristic 88-75 loss at home to Loyola, who was just 2-7 at the time.

And while they haven’t lost a game since then, the Blue Demons have also blown 13-point leads to Marquette, was outscored 50-31 in the second half in a 10-point win against St. John’s and at one point, Seton Hall clawed their way back from a 60-36 deficit to trail 66-56.

DePaul forward Megan Podkowa said that the experiences taught DePaul they can never get complacent.

“I think we’re trying learn from it, once you put the pedal on the other team, you’ve got to keep going and never let the other team back into it,” Podkowa said.

Podkowa, a senior, has been one of DePaul’s most consistent players this season. She leads the team with 15.9 points per game and 8.6 points per game, both career bests.

Along with Podkowa, senior guard Chanise Jenkins and junior guard Jessica January, the Blue Demons have three well-rounded players and have proven to be a handful for other teams. January, in particular, has taken another jump in play, becoming the first DePaul player since 1989 to record a triple-double.

“I’m just trying to do whatever I can,” January said. “We have such good players that every night, the other team has to focus on everyone. It doesn’t really matter who’s doing it as everyone is doing their role.”

Following an 86-70 loss to UConn on Dec. 2, Bruno said there had never been more parity in women’s college hoops. Besides UConn and Notre Dame — two powerhouses who get into the Final Four every season — the other two spots for the Final Four were wide open. The Blue Demons have never made it past the Sweet Sixteen.

And seeing as how his team competed against the Huskies, Bruno added it was the first step for his team to have confidence.

Since then, Bruno said he feels there is confidence is “all over the place,” but added that his team can’t settle for complacency.

“We all know what to do X and O wise, but some teams need a lot more confidence and others, they’re just naturally cocky,” Bruno said. “It’s a growth process.  I don’t want to take anything for granted.”

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High intensity leads women’s basketball