Efficient offense, team defense leads DePaul over St. John’s


Photo courtesy of DePaul athletics

DePaul senior guard Deja Church brings up the ball against St. John’s on Wednesday at Wintrust Arena.

The DePaul women’s basketball team played their first game in nine days on Wednesday night against the visiting St. John’s Red Storm. The Blue Demons were looking to further cement themselves as the second best in the Big East coming off of a win over Villanova on Jan 4, and they did just that on Wednesday in a 101-84 win at Wintrust Arena.

DePaul stormed out to a 15-6 lead over the Red Storm, aided by six St. John’s turnovers in just the first three minutes of the game. The Blue Demons kept up the pressure on the full court press, as well as a stifling zone defense that held St. John’s guards Qadashah Hoppie and Leilana Correa at bay. 

Their lead ballooned to 38-22 early in the second quarter, after freshman guard Darrione Rogers found sophomore transfer Jorie Allen in the middle of the lane for a score. Behind the great all around play from the team, the Blue Demons were able to climb out to a 51-31 lead at halftime. St. John’s star Leilani Correa was held to zero points in the first half. 

“Defense and rebounding is always something we really focus on,” Lexi Held said. “Our staff does a great job scouting for us so we really try and lock in as soon as the ball’s tipped up and get in the mindset of getting stops.”

DePaul under head coach Doug Bruno has always prided itself on all five players on the court’s ability to do similar things: shoot the ball, switch on just about any player, pass well, and step into a press. Those attributes were what helped them get out to such a big lead against St. John’s. 

“This is kind of what DePaulBall is all about, you know, we want to score the ball, but we want to share the ball to score the ball, and that’s the essence of basketball,” Bruno said. 

Each starter recorded at least one point, rebound, assist and steal. Deja Church had 13 points, six rebounds, one assist and three steals in the first half to pace the way for the Blue Demons. Rogers was able to come off the bench, helping out on both offense and defense. Fourteen of DePaul’s 22 field goals were assisted on, with a few coming straight off of steals.

DePaul has five players averaging more than 10 points a game this season, one of the most balanced scoring attacks in the country. It isn’t only offense though, the team’s synergy as a defensive unit is massive. Each player has to be able to switch and apply the same amount of pressure. 

This could be seen massively on a possession early in the second half, where Sonya Morris got a steal, flicked it to Dee Bekelja who laid it in, before stealing the in-bound pass and scoring again. Four points in about two seconds helped DePaul stretch their lead to 24. 

By the end of the third quarter, DePaul had retained their 22-point lead, taking an 82-60 lead into the final 10 minutes.

The fourth quarter was rather favorable to start off for St. John’s. A few of their possessions ended in trips to the foul line, and they slowed down DePaul. Multiple turnovers forced Bruno to call a timeout after a 6-0 run from the Red Storm. After the timeout, the Red Storm continued to stick with DePaul, getting it to a 14-point deficit.

Held scored 21 points on just 11 shots, adding five rebounds and seven assists. Sonya Morris had 17 points and nine assists, while Allen finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Bekelja had 22 points and Deja Church added 18 points and nine rebounds.

“I think we looked good in every aspect of the game, there’s multiple people in double figures, lots of people with many rebounds, lots of people with assists,” Bekelja said. “So I just think that was really good for our team.”

DePaul, meanwhile, has looked like the clear number two team in the Big East, with no chance to avenge an earlier 23 point loss to UConn until Jan 31. Until then, they face Georgetown on Saturday and now have a 4-1 Big East record this season.