DePaul Blue Demons conclude non-conference slate on high note


Junior guard Tanita Allen. (Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

A grinder of a non-conference schedule concluded Wednesday night as the DePaul Blue Demon women’s basketball team earned a 85-71 win against the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Jaguars (8-3) at McGrath-Phillips Arena to escape non-conference play with an 8-4 record.

Billed as an upstart team out of the Horizon League with an impressive 8-2 record coming into the contest Wednesday night, the Blue Demons dulled the bite of the Jaguars with a 12-3 run at the end of the first half that gave them a 44-30 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Playing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country over the last 12 days (Connecticut and Notre Dame) helped the Blue Demons prepare for the game against IUPUI tonight.

“Having our players have the mental ability to understand that their coach put them through UCONN, at Northwestern, and at Notre Dame inside (12) days and then to come back (three) days later (after the Notre Dame game) and play a team that doesn’t quite have the name recognition even though they are a really good team takes some mental toughness on the part of our players to understand what we’re dealing with here,” Blue Demon head coach Doug Bruno said after the game. “You come out tonight not ready to play and this team will wax you upside the head. It really is a good team that we beat tonight and I’m really proud of how our players came through one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.”

Senior guard Amarah Coleman led all Blue Demon scorers with 20 points on an efficient 8-for-17 from the field, while emerging sophomore forward Chante Stonewall and junior Tanita Allen chipped in 12 points apiece. The Blue Demons also made the most out of the extra possessions they created off of 15 offensive rebounds. They poured in 22 second-chance points and scored 19 points off of 21 IUPUI turnovers.

Tanita Allen notched 12 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday night against the IUPUI Jaguars. (Photo Courtesy of DePaul Athletics)

The Jaguars sprinted out to a 9-4 lead by the 4:52 mark in the first quarter behind five early points from junior guard Sydney Hall. The Blue Demons turned the ball over three times and started the game 2-for-8 from the field, as their run-and-gun style was ineffective early. But then DePaul forced a 5-second violation out of a mid-quarter timeout and then proceeded to go on an 18-6 run of their own behind a stifling defense that forced five turnovers in this stretch (eight in the quarter), while IUPUI shot themselves into the deficit by clunking 1-for-6 from behind the 3-point line. Allen had four points, both fairly routine driving lay-ins while Coleman heated up with seven points of her own in the quarter.

The Blue Demons led 22-15 after one quarter, but began the second quarter with two turnovers and watched IUPUI go on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to just one point at 24-23. But Campbell and senior guard Lauren Prochaska answered by hitting 3-point field goals on back-to-back possessions while Allen grabbed a tough offensive rebound in traffic that she laid in for two easy points to extend the Blue Demons lead back up to 32-25 with 4:44 remaining in the second quarter and force an IUPUI timeout. The Blue Demons had 14 second-chance points at this juncture of the game to the Jaguars four. After the timeout, the Blue Demons went on a 12-3 run to end the half behind six points from Allen and rolled into halftime with a 44-30 lead.

“I really believe our pressure and the wear out factor started to create turnovers,” Bruno said when asked about the 12-3 run. “We also changed what we were doing offensively but it’s not the offense. We rebounded well, we went from five down in the rebounding to two or three up. Tanita Allen had some really big rebounding plays and I think some of those things just all came together.”

With the 3-point field goals not falling (4-for-17 in the first half), the Blue Demons took advantage of 11 offensive rebounds that led to 18 second-chance points to fuel their run into halftime. Coleman finished the half with 11 points on 5-for-12 from the field, but it was Allen’s 12 points on a medley of hard drives to the basket, lay-ins off of offensive rebounds in traffic, and mid-range jumpers that stood out.

Campbell quietly grabbed nine rebounds, and dished out five assists both of which led all players at the half. She found ways to affect the game without scoring and finished with 16 rebounds, doubling her previous career high of eight which has happened on four occasions most recently in DePaul’s game Sunday against Notre Dame. She made up for the off shooting night (1-for-5 from the field) with all those rebounds to go along with seven assists.

“I think rebounding is all about who is more competitive, who wants it more,” Campbell said after the game. “I just see the ball and go get it, it’s not really anything specific to me. Hit my player, box out, and go get the ball. I’ve always liked rebounding.”

The Blue Demons played the Jaguars virtually even in the third quarter (IUPUI outscored the Blue Demons 22-20 in the quarter). Stonewall, who earned a spot on the Big East Honor Roll after averaging 17 points, six rebounds, and 3.5 assists in two games last week, had seven points in the third quarter. Freshman Rachel McLimore scored five points in the quarter on two jumpers.

Briefly, the Jaguars clawed within nine points at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a 3-point field goal from Holly Hoopingarner. But five consecutive field goals, plus two Coleman free throws pushed the Blue Demon lead to 18 points before a timeout at the 4:31 mark. With time no longer on their side, the Jaguars went on a 6-0 run from the 2:11 mark to the end of the game with the final buzzer sounding with the scoreboard reading 85-71 in favor of the Blue Demons.

The Blue Demons begin Big East Conference play on Dec. 28 when they welcome Seton Hall to McGrath-Phillips Arena for a 7 p.m. tipoff.