Rebekah Dahlman’s impact felt in her return to Blue Demon roster

No matter the circumstance, a win stands as a win in the record books for the women’s basketball team and head coach Doug Bruno. However, that doesn’t quite mean that everything is set in stone.

Coming off a 73-64 home victory against Green Bay in their season opener on Friday night, the Blue Demons are looking to tweak some things as their non-conference schedule progresses. First and foremost though, it was made obvious on Friday that the Blue Demons have sixth-year senior Rebekah Dahlman back and healthy.

Dahlman played more confident than ever and scored a team-high 21 points off the bench. She has suffered a handful of injuries dating back to 2013 when she began playing collegiate basketball at Vanderbilt.

“I feel like a grandma out there,” she said with a smile when asked about her role as a veteran. “I’ve been here for six years, so I know the little things and I’m trying to help my team on and off the court, so it’s great to be here.”

Dahlman’s veteran leadership could be huge for DePaul down the stretch once the team begins Big East play in late December. She got to the free throw line 12 times on Friday and converted 11 of her attempts. Dahlman played aggressively throughout the game and did not settle for a ton of 3-point shots. Her mindset of attacking the rim is one that might give DePaul an emotional boost in the near future.

“If I have an opportunity, of course I’m gonna attack,” Dahlman said. “I felt great out there, and I’m just doing anything I can for the team.”

Bruno was more than happy to have Dahlman active and is looking forward to seeing the impact her mental toughness may have on the rest of his team.

“Her goal, my goal, our goal together is for her to have one great collegiate year,” Bruno said. “If we can have her healthy, get her to play ball for one year, that’s a very valuable sixth-year senior.”

One part of DePaul’s in-game strategy that might need to get relooked is their interior defense and utilization of the full court press.

DePaul’s lack of size down low proved to be costly for the majority of the game, as Green Bay won the battle of points scored in the paint 38-16. At halftime DePaul trailed in this statistical category 22-2. Not to mention, Green Bay also edged DePaul in total rebounding 41-33. DePaul’s two tallest players, senior forward Mart’e Grays who stands at six-foot-two-inches and junior Chante Stonewall who stands at six-foot-one-inches tall, grabbed just five rebounds apiece.

Not a single DePaul player had double digit rebounding numbers. Senior guard Tanita Allen led the team by way of hauling down seven boards. Junior guard Kelly Campbell, who led DePaul in total rebounding last season, got six rebounds.

“We’re obviously a small team, so we’re working on our post defense on the daily. So (we’re) just really using our height to our advantage and trying to double down,” Campbell said. “We’re gonna have to figure it out because we’re gonna be playing teams with much bigger players, so we’re still working on it.”

Bruno stressed the difficulty of his team improving its rebounding numbers in the next few games with a challenging schedule ahead. This upcoming slew of outings for DePaul will be played against high-caliber teams such as the defending national champion Notre Dame on Saturday. Among others are Syracuse, Northwestern, and both Oklahoma and Connecticut on the road.

“I’m not sure that we’re gonna get the rebounding numbers exactly to our side real quickly against that kind of schedule,” Bruno said.

Defensively, DePaul’s defense was mediocre at best. Bruno’s full court press that he implements is supposed to work out so that his team’s defense can apply pressure throughout all 94 feet of the basketball court. However, Wisconsin-Green Bay was able to find holes in that defensive strategy. Consequently, DePaul gave up many open 3-point attempts and wide open layups. DePaul caught a break in that their opponent converted on only 25 percent of its 3-pointers. 

“We’re gonna have to scramble this thing on the defensive side because we are so small,” Bruno said. “Chasing people is gonna give up layups, it’s gonna give up open 3’s. You don’t want to give up layups and open 3’s, but you can’t mathematically put two people on one player and not have a coach with brains on the other bench not be able to exploit that, and they did.”

DePaul’s full court press eventually paid dividends though, especially in the fourth quarter when they held Wisconsin-Green Bay to one-of-13 from the field to end the game. That included a 22-5 run for DePaul.

“Our press was able to wear them down a bit today,” Campbell said. “They had a shorter bench, they had a couple injuries, and we have a bigger bench this year so we were able to wear them down and really speed them up a little bit.”

One thing that DePaul has going for them is that they have a deep bench this season. Lexi Held, Maya Stovall and Sonya Morris, all true freshmen, got playing time. Morris started the game at the guard position.

“These freshmen are gonna have to help us. They’ve gotta help us,” Bruno said. “Lexi (Held) and Maya (Stovall) gave us short minutes, but those two players have to play and Maya Stovall and Lexi Held are really good players, and I’ve gotta find them time. They’re gonna play, and they’re gonna be very important to us.”