Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia
After two straight losses, the DePaul women’s basketball team was desperate to get back on the court, and there is certainly no better place to get back on track than in the quarter-final of the Big East tournament.
Just under a week separated a regular-season closing loss to Marquette to the 97-59 win over Providence on Saturday at Wintrust Arena in the Big East tournament. In that time, the DePaul women practiced but had the tournament fixated in their minds. “I’m only excited for gamedays,” senior forward Chante Stonewall said. “So practices are great but they’re nothing compared to a game day.”
That feeling is reciprocated amongst the team. “Believe me, these players want to get back on the court,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “When you get knocked upside the head in any game, the best thing that can happen is to get back not just on the court for practice but you want to play in a competition.”
Competition as fierce as the Big East tournament is the perfect place for DePaul to showcase their skills. The team roared to a 13-4 start to begin the first quarter with Kelly Campbell and Lexi Held leading the offensive charge.
After shooting a combined 33 percent in their last two games, losses to Villanova and Marquette, the Blue Demons needed an efficient start to Saturday’s contest. In previous games against the Friars, the Blue Demons had 80 and 93 points in their wins.
Through the first quarter, DePaul’s defense was the key to their success. The team was switching with ease and double-teaming in the post against players like 6’4” Alyssa Geary, forcing Providence to take outside shots where they struggled, shooting just 1-for-6 from deep in the first half and 40.7 percent overall.
When shots fell, for the Blue Demons, they took off on big runs. Yet the deep shooting opened up avenues for the women to attack inside and draw foul calls. After the first quarter, the Blue Demons lead 24-14 with 4-for-5 shooting from the free-throw line.
The second quarter was a continuation of the first. After a scoreless opening few minutes, the Blue Demons went on a 9-3 run capped by a Deja Church 3-pointer on the right wing. DePaul allowed just 10 points in the second quarter as they lead 47-24 after the first 20 minutes while forcing 12 turnovers from the Friars.
“We just couldn’t get any footing offensively and when they hit a few [shots] they’ll hit a dozen so we just could never really recover from that,” Providence head coach Jim Crowley said.
Kyra Spiwak and Channel Williams combined for 14 points in the first half for the Friars, who were missing sophomore forward Mary Baskerville who had started all 28 regular-season games.
Despite the great start to the game, the second half needed to see the Blue Demons cement their lead. And that’s exactly what they did as a flurry of threes extended the lead to close to 30 as they put up 27 points in the quarter to take a 74-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
The starters got their rest with eight minutes left in the game as the Blue Demons lead by over 30 points. Maya Stovall scored eight points and added five assists off the bench in the game for DePaul, as Bekelja added 14 points and 4 rebounds en route to the 97-59 win.
Deja Church went for 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in the win. It was the Michigan transfer’s first Big East tournament appearance.
“We just tried to speed them up and our whole game plan going into the game was to just apply pressure and stay consistent with the pressure and eventually our stops on defense led us to good looks on offense,” Church said.
Chante Stonewall scored 16 points and added eight rebounds in the win. The senior has been a part of two Big East tournament-winning teams in her career at DePaul.
97 points are the most points the Blue Demons have scored in a Big East tournament game since they hung 98 on Marquette in the 2018 championship game. The Blue Demons will face the winner of Seton Hall and Butler on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Wintrust Arena.