Senior guard Anaya Peoples surveys the Marquette defense in DePaul’s loss at Wintrust Arena Wednesday night. Peoples tallied 14 points in the matchup with the Golden Eagles. (Emma Thompson)
Senior guard Anaya Peoples surveys the Marquette defense in DePaul’s loss at Wintrust Arena Wednesday night. Peoples tallied 14 points in the matchup with the Golden Eagles.

Emma Thompson

DePaul Women drop game to Marquette, upping pressure to bolster tourney resume

January 8, 2023

Wednesday night’s game at Wintrust Arena against Marquette was a must-win game for DePaul, but they were simply outplayed by their rival through four quarters. The 73-62 loss now adds pressure on the Blue Demons to find a win before things get uglier. 

All statistics favored the Blue Demons ahead of the game. They lead the Big East in rebounds per game at 42.7. They are second in both points scored and assist per game at 79.1 and 16.6 respectively. Yet, none of that showed true in the 40 minutes of play against the Golden Eagles. 

Another slow start plagued DePaul, who trailed 26-16 after the first quarter. Marquette’s leading scorer, senior Jordan King, gave the Blue Demons trouble as she recorded 18 points by halftime. 

With the defense looking lackadaisical, DePaul was at times caught sleeping on open shooters and cuts to the rim, leading to the Golden Eagles shooting 41% from the field and 43% from three. 

Finally, things picked up in the third quarter when DePaul outscored Marquette 15-8, while holding the Golden Eagles to 15% shooting. DePaul slowly cut into Marquette’s 14-point halftime lead and brought the game within seven points, but that was the closest the Blue Demons came to taking control. 

Ahead of the game, sophomore Aneesah Morrow was selected to the John R. Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 Watch List. A panel of national college basketball experts shortened the list from 50 to 25 based on players’ performance so far this season. 

Morrow added to her Wooden Award Watch List by collecting her 12th double-double on the season. She finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds and was the only offensive spark head coach Doug Bruno could rely on. 

Besides Morrow’s contribution, the rest of the team shot a measly 14-41. Countless offensive DePaul possessions resulted in rushed shots and contested looks. 

While junior Darrione Rogers took a jump from 10 points per game to 19 from her sophomore to junior year, her inconsistency has hurt DePaul as of late.  

Despite the Blue Demons struggles, Morrow has tried to keep a positive mindset through the tough losses and ignite some energy into the team.

“We have to stay together,” Morrow said. “We have to have each other’s backs. Playing basketball is a team sport and we can’t do it with just one person as individuals.” 

After the game, Bruno said the team is still looking for an identity offensively. He said he wants to continue to find open looks for his players and for them to look for the open shot, whether it takes one pass, or seven to eight passes. 

Head coach Doug Bruno shouts directions to his players in DePaul’s loss to Marquette on Wednesday. (Emma Thompson)

Wednesday’s game was the 83rd all-time matchup between the schools, and with the loss, DePaul still leads the series 49-33.  

DePaul now finds themselves quickly dropping two Big East games and having to battle the task of playing No. 5 UConn on Sunday Jan. 8 at 12:30 p.m. in Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. 

How long before finding an offensive identity is deemed too late? 

Sitting 10-6 in the with 14 games left to play, Bruno’s 2022-2023 team has not looked apart compared to his 36 previous seasons at helm. 

“From a pressure perspective, we have to put pressure on ourselves to be in a better place of execution, and we as coaches have to figure that out,” Bruno said. “How best can I figure out how to combine the talents of the group we have and to mesh it together into a good cohesive basketball team, which at this moment we are not.” 

In jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament, it has been a whirlwind of a season so far. After last season’s first round exit to Dayton in the tournament, DePaul came into the new season with unknowns to their roster. 

Standout Morrow was in line for a new role. After teams had figured out her game from last season, Bruno’s squad would need to trust one another when Morrow was given double teams or shut down from time to time. 

Recent woes

The Blue Demons started the season with a preseason matchup against Texas who at the time was the No. 3 team in the country. DePaul gave up 105 points and lost by 43. 

Since then, DePaul’s schedule has been a bit reminiscent of that game. The start of the non-conference schedule had the Blue Demons dropping two games of which they were favored. A 86-79 loss to Northern Illinois University and 90-83 OT loss to Cleveland State. 

Lack of defensive execution has been the reason for the early losses. 

Injuries quickly became a part of DePaul’s slow start. Freshman guards Maeve McErlane and Haley Walker were both sidelined with knee injuries before the season, and just two games in, graduate student Jade Edwards tore both her ACL and meniscus in her left knee. 

This has led DePaul to play with a short bench. Bruno has given his freshmen like Zaria Hurston and McErlane, who returned against Creighton on Dec. 31, the availability to find a little bit of a rhythm, but they have not entirely gained his trust to get more minutes. 

McErlane has only practiced a handful of times since being cleared to play. Getting used to more and more play on the court could increase her minutes 

Since the start of the Big East portion of the schedule, DePaul has had difficulty finding consistent offense other than Morrow. They have dug themselves into holes with slow starts,but seem to find their way back into the game, only to fall short in the final minutes. 

DePaul will need to turn the season around quickly to better position themselves for the seeding in the Big East Tournament, but also for potential an NCAA tournament berth. 

UConn game postponed 

Sunday’s Jan. 8 scheduled game at 12:30 p.m. CST against UConn was postponed by the Big East on Friday. The Huskies did not have enough scholarship players available. Seven players is the required conference minimum to be eligible to play. 

UConn athletic director David Benedict made a statement after the game was postponed. 

“At UConn, the health and wellbeing of our student-athletes will always be our top priority,” director of athletics David Benedict said in a statement. “Our women’s basketball program has unfortunately been affected by an unprecedented number of injuries this season. While it’s unfortunate that we need to postpone Sunday’s game, it’s the right call to protect the safety of our student-athletes. We will work with the BIG EAST and DePaul on options to reschedule the game.”

The conference will attempt to reschedule the game, all tickets and parking passes will be valid for the rescheduled game. 

Going forward, this could cause a distraction for UConn in the conference, but more importantly, DePaul could use an extended period of time to focus on the next opponents and stack wins going forward. 

DePaul’s next game is at home in Wintrust Arena on Jan. 11 against Villanova at 7:00 p.m. CST. 

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