Women’s basketball: DePaul finds a way to win after first conference loss


Donald Crocker

Forward Aneesah Morrow jumping to take a shot against Villanova on Jan. 14.

After a disappointing overtime loss to conference rival Marquette University, plenty of emphasis was placed on coming back and winning versus Villanova University at home. 

Not just purely out of redemption, but also because Villanova is a good team, ranked fifth in the Big East and went into Friday night’s game on a five-game win streak. DePaul defeated the Wildcats 75-63 on Friday at Wintrust Arena.

“Definitely, yeah,” guard Sonya Morris said when asked if a large emphasis was placed on tonight’s game. “First of all, we don’t want to lose two in a row. But, Villanova is a very good team and they were without one of their key players so we knew we had to capitalize.”

“We can’t get complacent and comfortable. We knew we just had to come out and get this win tonight.”

The team could have been categorized as “complacent and comfortable” in the first half of the game. 

They shot 40 percent from the field and missed all six of their three-point attempts, which was uncharacteristic for a team that shoots nearly 25 three-pointers per game and sinks 34 percent of them. The lack of three-point production proved slightly detrimental to their first half, considering the Blue Demons are not a paint-dominant team. 

“We know we want to get threes and make threes when we’re open,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “But, the defense determines what you get and they played well in their extended zone.”

The Blue Demon’s three-point deficit at halftime was a byproduct of their inability to utilize their three-point shot and the result of 13 first-half turnovers, which Bruno used as evidence to support his claim of “a sloppy first-half.”

The deficit at half was also courtesy of Maddy Siegrist of Villanova, one of the best players in the conference. She is a 6-foot-1 forward who has missed time this season,  playing just her eighth game of the season on Friday night. 

Siegrist is averaging 22.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game this season, utilizing 20.4 field goal attempts per game. In the first half on Friday night, Siegrist uploaded 20 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-10 shooting. 

The Blue Demons attempted multiple matchups on Siegrist, starting with guard Deja Church, followed by forward Darrione Rogers, then forward Aneesah Morrow, who guarded Siegrist for most of the game. Some got to her, but not many, as she finished the game with 31 points. 

“She’s a great player,” Morrow said of Siegrist after the game. “She scored a lot of their points, so I was trying to capitalize on defending and trying to stop as many baskets as I possibly could.”

“The goal is to make Maddy (Siegrist) come out of the game and know that she had to work exceptionally hard to get theirs,” Bruno said.

That’s what the Blue Demons did in the second half. On top of keeping Siegrist to just 11 second-half points, the team “got theirs” on offense, opening up the second half on an 18-6 run. 

Morris found her spots on the offensive end and led the team with 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Her mid-range shot and attack on the basket were lucrative for DePaul’s total offense. 

Morrow added 18 points and 11 rebounds, her ninth consecutive double-double and 11th in her last 12 games. She continues to lead the nation in rebounds and double-doubles. 

Guard Lexi Held took a bit of time to get going on offense but stepped up in the fourth quarter to hit some big shots. She poured in 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting. 

DePaul kept Villanova to 34.3 percent shooting from the field and 15 percent shooting from behind the arc. The Wildcats were kept to just 30 points in the second half. 

Before the season began, Bruno mentioned to The DePaulia that “you can’t replace experience in college basketball.” 

This idea resonated true for their game versus Villanova. The Blue Demons created a valiant comeback from a sluggish first-half basketball to avoid a two-game losing skid. Experience and confidence are prerequisites for this type of game. 

On top of the high-volume production from Morris, Morrow and Held, there was the invaluable play from Church on both ends of the floor, guard Dee Bekelja hitting big shots down the stretch and guard Kierra Collier putting in invaluable minutes. 

“Everything that gets thrown at you in the Big East is good for you,” Bruno said. 

The Blue Demons will look to continue improving their conference record on Sunday versus Georgetown.