Preview: No. 19 DePaul takes on No. 17 Miami in Maggie Dixon final


Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia

DePaul senior forward Chante Stonewall celebrates during the first half against Arkansas State on Friday at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

It’s the second time in ten days where No. 19 DePaul is facing another ranked team. On Nov. 14, the Blue Demons flew to Corvallis, Oregon to face now No. 7 Oregon State to the tune of a 98-77 loss. But this time they will be right at home when No. 17 Miami (FL) looks to play spoiler on the road in the finals of the Maggie Dixon Classic at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

McGrath-Phillips Arena was the host of the first round of the Maggie Dixon Classic, an annual tournament honoring the former DePaul assistant and Army West Point head coach — who led the Knights to their first-ever NCAA tournament before passing away from a heart arrhythmia at the young age of 28. 

“Maggie was just one special woman,” head coach Doug Bruno said. The women’s basketball offices in the Sullivan Athletic Center are named after the late coach, so hosting the tournament right in Lincoln Park is full of emotions for the program.

Coming off the loss on the west coast, the Blue Demons had a week to work through finals while preparing for the tournament, and they came out well-rested, scoring a program-record 45 points in the first quarter against Arkansas State on Friday. This lead ended up holding throughout the day, as they set another record with 39 assists on 44 field goals. 

Sophomore guard Jolene Daninger had 16 points off the bench coupled with three steals. Juniors Deja Church and Dee Bekelja scored 12 points each while Church had seven assists and Bekelja had a game-high eight. 

They would cruise out with a 109-64 victory and watched Miami take on North Carolina A&T in the second game of the afternoon. Miami squeaked out a 68-67 victory after a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds remaining. Now, they’ll take on the Blue Demons Saturday afternoon.

The Hurricanes are undefeated on the year and are coming off of a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament last year. They’ll have their hands full over the next four games with three of them coming against ranked opponents. But they have the players to get it done. 

6’4” Beatrice Mompremier has been a force to be reckoned with this year, she had 18 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in the win over North Carolina A&T. The quick guard Mykea Gray had 19 points, including the game-winning three. Despite a poor shooting night with 29 percent from three, the Hurricanes were able to prevail.

They’ll be matched up against the team that couldn’t miss on Friday in DePaul. The Blue Demons shot 48.9 percent from the field including a first-quarter where they made 9-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. 

Three things to look out for:

Dee Bekelja in the starting role

The junior guard stepped into the starting lineup on Friday after Lexi Held was ruled out with a sprained ankle sustained in practice. She flourished in the role with the game-high eight assists. Her growth has been one of the biggest parts of the young season for DePaul. She’s reliable from three, spreads the ball well and is sturdy on defense. If she can continue to excel, then DePaul will have more firepower against a solid Miami team.

Effectiveness of the full-court press

The full-court press is a cornerstone of DePaulBall. Bruno preaches the speed, vision and effort one must exhibit to play 94-feet. If it works well, turnovers will lead to quick shots and big runs. That worked perfectly against Arkansas State, as a flurry of turnovers in the first quarter kickstarted a historic run for the Blue Demons. 

Does the inside presence need to be huge?

The Blue Demons play a brand of basketball that is unique but with a flaw, the team doesn’t have the true big that a lot of teams have. Forward Kiara Dallmann is expected to play later in the season, but as of right now the Blue Demons don’t really trot any player out on the court who is above six foot. This can be exposed if teams are able to beat the press and set up a half-court offense. Yet the ever growing senior forward Chante Stonewall has been able to grab plenty of rebounds and play with her back to the basket. The question is, will that be enough against Miami on Saturday?

Where to watch:


McGrath-Phillips Arena at 3:30 p.m.