Preview: Non-conference schedule a success as DePaul turns to Marquette


Xavier Ortega | The DePaulia

DePaul celebrates after beating Miami in the Maggie Dixon Classic in November. Miami was one of five teams who were ranked or receiving votes when DePaul played them.

DePaul women’s basketball head coach Doug Bruno has always preached playing a tough non-conference schedule. It isn’t a special thing anymore, it’s just the norm at DePaul. Essentially, the goal is to play teams in or around the Top 25 because it will help make the Blue Demons better heading into Big East play regardless of the result. 

It was an impressive non-conference performance from the Blue Demons, who ended up at No. 16 going into the second part of the season while standing at 10-2. The two losses came against championship favorites No. 1 UConn and No. 3 Oregon State. Wins at Green Bay, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Loyola proved their prowess on the road, and a home win against No. 24 Miami lead to another Maggie Dixon Classic title.

One of the biggest stories about this team is their resiliency. In games against Notre Dame, Northwestern and Green Bay, they trailed for a portion of the game before storming back to take those wins on the road. Against Green Bay, they outscored the Phoenix 26-12 in the fourth quarter to take home the victory.  

Seniors Chante Stonewall and Kelly Campbell, as expected, have flourished in their roles on the team. Both players haven’t missed a game and are leading the team in multiple stat categories while challenging any other player in the country at their position. 

Stonewall has averaged 18.9 points to go with 5.8 rebounds and three steals a game. Her presence on the defensive end has been massive as the tallest player in the starting lineup. Although defense is largely a team effort with DePaul, Stonewall helps control the interior for the Blue Demons. 

Campbell has repeated her success from last year as well. As one of the top point guards in the country, Campbell leads the country in assist to turnover ratio with six assists for every turnover. Splits of 7.6/6.8/6 show that she does it all when she’s on the court. 

Outside of the senior duo, sophomores Lexi Held and Sonya Morris have added scoring and speed to the offense that’s scoring the third-most points per game in the country. 

Morris is second on the team in scoring with 16.9 a game while shooting 40 percent on just over six 3-point attempts per game. At Notre Dame, Morris poured in 29 points to help lead DePaul to a 105-94 win over the Irish. 

Held has attempted the second-most 3-pointers on the team behind Morris and had 13 points in the fourth quarter in the comeback against Green Bay. She’s started all 11 of the games she’s played and, along with Morris, is the future face of the DePaul team. 

Transfer Deja Church has battled through injury while getting accustomed to the DePaul system which plays differently from her previous school in Michigan. In nine appearances, Church has scored 9.4 points per game while shooting 87 percent on a team-high 24 free throw attempts. 

Dee Bekelja has stepped into the starting role after Church started the first five games. Bekelja has grown into the heavier minutes and has excelled in the system. She has added 9.8 points per game with a season-high 21 against Notre Dame.

Jolene Daninger has added scoring off the bench, the sophomore has the second-highest 3-pointer percentage on the team out of anyone who’s played more than 100 minutes. 

Five freshmen have gotten some playtime during the season, gaining important minutes. 

Now, players and staff will turn their attention to Big East play, hoping to take home their third straight Big East tournament title. Their first assignment is the team they’ve played in the title game in the past few years, rival Marquette on Sunday, Dec. 29 at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

Marquette is riding a five-game win streak into Sunday’s conference opener. Both teams played Northwestern and Green Bay, with DePaul beating both as Marquette fell to Northwestern. 

The Golden Eagles lost six seniors to graduation over the offseason, but haven’t lost a step in non-conference play as they went 9-2 in their first 11 games. 

In the past few seasons, the Golden Eagles and the Blue Demons have played each other three teams, twice in the regular season and once in the Big East title game.

Junior guard Selena Lott has paced the scoring for the Golden Eagles at 14.9 a game. The Golden Eagles have held opponents to just 29 percent shooting from beyond the arc, something the Blue Demons look to use to their advantage. 

DePaul was the favorite to win the conference in the Big East preseason coaches’ poll, while Marquette was picked to finish ninth. But when it comes to conference games, records and predictions go out of the window. 

DePaul and Marquette will face off at McGrath-Phillips Arena at 4:00 on Sunday. The game will be live-streamed on the Big East Digital Network.