DePaul beats Billikens, wins Maggie Dixon Classic

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DePaul beats Billikens, wins Maggie Dixon Classic

(Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

(Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

(Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

(Photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

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DePaul pushed through a tough third quarter to capture the championship in the 11th annual Maggie Dixon Classic defeating the Saint Louis Billikens 86-78. 

Mart’e Grays came into the game shooting 24 percent (albeit on just 17 attempts) from three, some of which head coach Doug Bruno has attributed to Greys returning from injury. She hit 7-11 threes on her way to a 25-point night to help the Demons.

“I think the goal is always to stay aggressive,” Greys said.  “My teammates were getting me the ball and it was just, you know, you want to score and get a basket.”

Things started off well for the Demons, outscoring Saint Louis 26-20 in the first quarter.  Grays got started early, hitting a three to tie the game at eight just five seconds after being subbed in.  She wasted no time looking for her shot, taking one on the next four straight possessions.  She hit three of her team-high six shots in the quarter for eight points.

Saint Louis was kept in the game by a strong opening quarter from Jackie Kemph, their stalwart Arlington Heights native.  Kemph, who will likely become the programs all time leading scorer this season (under 200 points away), went 4-4 with eight points and contributed three of the teams five assists in the opening frame. Kemp, already the program’s all time assist leader, lead the game with seven assists and finished with a team-high 16 points while playing 38 minutes.

“Jackie is a great player.  We ended up not offering Jackie, which was a huge mistake and when I make a mistake recruiting I admit it, especially here in the Chicago area,” Bruno said.  “I want all of our players to shoot threes and Jackie’s ability to shoot threes has improved very much in college.  So, Jackie Kemph was a player we severely wished we had on our team tonight and we didn’t so we had to deal with her.”

The Billikens would chip back in a slower paced second quarter, seeing Saint Louis edge out Demons 18-14.  Greys added nine more shots in this quarter, only hitting on two of them.  The Billikens outscored DePaul 9-4 over the final five and a half minutes of the half behind Paige Rakers and Aaliyah Covington.  With the score tied, DePaul had the ball with 30 seconds left and ran the clock down to ensure the last shot.  As time wound down, they worked it inside to Greys, who missed a hook shot.  Tanita Allen swooped in for the rebound and tipped it in just as time expired to give DePaul a 40-38 lead.

Then the third quarter happened.

Despite getting mostly open looks, DePaul couldn’t buy a bucket, shooting 3-14 from behind the arc and 5-24 overall.  Ashton Millender, coming off back to back 20-point games, shot just 1-5 on threes in the quarter.  Meanwhile, Saint Louis shot an efficient 8-16 in the quarter and got ten free throws in the quarter after shooting just three in the first half.  The Billikens went on a dominating 19-3 run from the five-minute mark all the way until the final five seconds when Mart’e Greys hit a three to bring the Saint Louis lead down to seven going into the final quarter.

Going into the final ten minutes of the game, Greys was shooting 6-20 from the floor.  She was going against a pair of 6-foot 4-inch forwards on St. Luis in Maddison Gits and Tara Dusharm.

“They are really great players.  They weren’t scared to battle down low and they made some good moves down low,” Greys said.  “It was tough, but we just had to do what we had to do.”

Dusharm had ten points on six shots in just 13 minutes of play, while Gits grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.  Due to DePaul’s smaller size, Bruno said there was no sense in doing anything special to take away the size in this matchup.

“We know that every single game (…) we are going to be dealing with monster size,” Bruno said.  “I don’t want to overcompensate to take away that, I’d rather focus on other places where it is probably a little more practical for us to take some things away.”

Greys would catch fire in the fourth quarter, hitting all three of her three-point attempts.  Greys hit a three to open the quarter, which was quickly followed by an ‘and-one’ from Millender.  Millender came right back after a Saint Louis missed three and hit a three of her own, part of her nine points in the quarter.  Just like that, DePaul was up 64-62.

DePaul would ride hot shooting to the finish line.  A 9-2 run from four minutes and forty seconds until the final thirty seconds sealed the deal.  While St. Louis shot 49 percent from the floor to DePaul’s 35, they could not connect in threes. The Billikens hit six out of 23 while DePaul would knock down 17 on 42 attempts.  Another key difference was DePaul winning the rebound battle 44-41 despite the size disadvantage, including 14 offensive rebounds to the Billiken’s 4.

After the Wintrust win, DePaul will travel to Sin City to take on Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the Play4Kay Showcase on Nov. 23.