The DePaul Blue Demons (21-7, 13-3 Big East) capped off senior day and their final home game of the regular season on Sunday afternoon with a 71-66 victory over the the Villanova Wildcats (20-7, 10-6 Big East) to keep them tied for the No. 1 ranking in the Big East standings.
Initially, the path to this win was fairly bleak for the Blue Demons. The Wildcats started the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game on a 10-0 run on 4-of-5 shooting that included two 3-pointers. On the other hand, the Blue Demons shot 0-of-5 during this span and head coach Doug Bruno had to call a timeout to get his team to regroup.
“Basically, we just tried to assess the defensive end,” Bruno said. “And then offensively… I didn’t think that we were in attack mode.” Bruno described the offense at that early stage in the game as being in “a passive place.”
Following that timeout, the Blue Demons finished the first quarter on an 18-2 run by shooting 7-of-11 from the field and forcing the Wildcats into six turnovers with tight man-to-man defense.
“Overcoming that 10-nothing lead, I’m just really proud of the way everybody played,” Bruno said.
The man-to-man defensive strategy for the Blue Demons worked in their favor for the remainder of the game. In fact, their defense was so superb that they held the Wildcats to shoot just 37.5 percent overall and a mere 32.0 percent shooting mark from behind the arc. Not to mention, the Blue Demons’ tight defense strategy forced the Wildcats to commit 10 turnovers in total, and the Blue Demons capitalized on their miscues and put up 12 points off turnovers.
In addition, the Blue Demons won the battle of the boards, grabbing 41 total rebounds in comparison to 36 total rebounds for the Wildcats.
Despite the Blue Demons only knocking down 40.0 percent of their total shot attempts and seeing only 33.3 percent of their 3-point field goal attempts fall through the net, the Blue Demons had a handful of players step up and play well on both ends of the floor.
Lauren Prochaska, a five-foot-eight-inch senior guard, played exemplary defense on the Wildcats’ leading scorer Alex Louin who’s a bit taller, standing at six-feet and also plays the guard position. Prochaska held Louin to 26.6 percent shooting, including 16.6 percent from behind the arc which made it difficult for Louin to get into an offensive rhythm.
“She did an excellent job on Loiun. Louin is a really hard matchup,” Bruno said. “She was really really a vital player for us” when it came to shutting down Louin’s offensive game.
Aside from Prochaska’s defense, Prochaska had a solid all-around performance by scoring eight points, handing out four assists to help her teammates take high percentage shots, nailing four free throws, and coming down with three total rebounds. “Lauren Prochaska’s been here for four years and has been one of those players that has done whatever we have asked her to do,” Bruno said.
Redshirt junior guard Ashton Millender scored a game-high 19 points on an efficient 8-of-14 overall shooting and shot 3-of-6 from deep. Equally important, Millender’s defense was on par.
“Just being focused, ready to the little things,” Millender said. “Do more than just shoot the ball. Play defense, rebound, assist.”
Right behind Millender in the scoring column for the Blue Demons was senior guard Amarah Coleman who tallied 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting that included one made 3-pointer from the left wing in the final minute of the third quarter. Also, Coleman pulled down seven total rebounds, dished out four assists, and made all four of her free throw attempts.
“I just you know, tried to get my teammates going with my offense and defense and just try to encourage them,” Coleman said.
Sophomore guard Kelly Campbell, who ranks No. 2 in the Big East in average total rebounding per game in conference play, secured a game-high 13 rebounds, and four of those rebounds came on the offensive glass which gave the Blue Demons many second chance opportunities. Campbell also had four assists and scored four points.
Tanita Allen came off the bench and provided an offensive spark for the Blue Demons in the fourth quarter. After not making any field goals before then, the junior guard hit back-to-back driving layups coming from the left side of the basket that gave the Blue Demons a 63-57 lead with just over four minutes left. This turned out to provide the team with a comfortable cushion until time expired.
With this game in the books, the Blue Demons will shift their focus to the St. John’s Red Storm (16-11, 9-7 Big East) as they will hit the road for a Friday evening matchup in Queens, NY.