Women’s basketball: DePaul holds off Rutgers 77-74 to begin Paradise Jam


Donald Crocker/The DePaulia

DePaul guard Deja Church looks to get past a Loyola Chicago defender on Friday at Wintrust Arena.

Last year, college basketball didn’t have its normal feel because the season was shortened and disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the staples of a normal season is the non-conference multi-team events that get some of the sport’s best teams to participate in a three-day tournament in one location. But most of those events were canceled last year because of the pandemic. 

This season, however, the multi-team events are back and DePaul is participating in one of them. The Blue Demons are playing in the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with their first game coming against Rutgers on Thanksgiving. 

DePaul — coming off its first win over a Big Ten opponent, Northwestern, this season on Sunday — held off a late run from Rutgers to win 77-74. 

Head coach Doug Bruno talked to The DePaulia on Wednesday about the key’s for DePaul in the Paradise Jam, and he emphasized that playing strong defense would be important in these next three days.

Against Rutgers, the Blue Demons came out playing solid defense in the first half. The Scarlet Knights only shot 37.5 percent from the field and went 0-for-8 from the 3-point line. 

DePaul turned some of that defense into offense, scoring 21 points off of turnovers. The Blue Demons’ offense was fully in rhythm in the first quarter, shooting 69.2 percent from the field. 

Senior guard Lexi Held led DePaul in the early going with eight points. But the Blue Demons got a much-needed addition to their team on Thursday when junior guard Kierra Collier was cleared by the NCAA to be eligible to play. 

In her first game as a Blue Demon, Collier wasted no time making her impact felt on the court. She knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers in the second quarter that was part of an 8-0 run to put DePaul up 38-20. 

Collier finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and six rebounds.

DePaul’s offense, however, slowed down after the hot start in the first quarter. The Blue Demons did not shoot above 32 percent in any of the last three quarters and only knocked down three 3-pointers in the second half. 

Nevertheless, DePaul increased its lead in the second quarter, taking a 41-30 advantage into halftime. 

Rutgers responded well following the break, out-scoring DePaul 27-19 in the third quarter. The Scarlet Knights were led by Osh Brown’s 20 points and Victoria Morris’ 19 points. 

With DePaul struggling to generate much on the offensive end in the fourth quarter, Rutgers continued to close the gap the closing minutes. Eventually, DePaul’s lead was down to two, 72-70. 

But Rutgers finished the game only making one out of its last seven attempts. Collier hit a shot in the final minute to put DePaul up five, 77-72, and that would be enough to give the Blue Demons their fourth win of the season. 

Held led DePaul with 16 points and five assists, while three more players finished in double figures — Collier, Deja Church and Sonya Morris. 

DePaul is back in action on Friday against No. 9 Arizona in the second game of the Paradise Jam.