The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Big East challenges embraced by Bruno’s Blue Demons

Will Robson
Senior guard Anaya Peoples drives to the hoop against Creighton Jan. 6, 2024, at Wintrust Arena.

DePaul women’s basketball has battled through an early Big East schedule that has seen nail-biter after nail-biter, going 1-4 in that span, including recent losses to top-25 opponents in Creighton January 6 and Marquette Saturday.

“I love the Big East,” Head Coach Doug Bruno said. “[Creighton] earned their ranking, and so does Marquette, and I just felt our players fought the battle.”

In the seven-point loss to No. 21 ranked Creighton, fifth-year senior Jorie Allen led the Blue Demons with a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double in 34 minutes. After a 26-19 first quarter in favor of the Bluejays, DePaul fought to the final buzzer to keep the score close, powered by an 11-point third quarter by Allen.

“I know we didn’t get the result we wanted today, but we still had fun,” Allen said. “You can’t ask for much more than playing a ranked opponent on national television. The joy of the game is coming in every day.”

DePaul’s second half was encouraging, forcing nine turnovers and earning 20 points in the paint, doubling their first-half total.

“Once we show up and we’re all on the same page for four quarters, we’re gonna be a really dangerous team,” Allen said. “We’re missing shots that I think our players are accustomed to making, but that’s the name of the game. We’ll get back to the drawing board and get better.”

Creighton was third in the country in least committed turnovers at 10.5 at tipoff (DePaul is 65th), yet the Blue Demons forced 18.

“[Forcing turnovers] definitely gives us confidence,” Allen said. “I think always your intensity on defense leaks over into your offense.”

Additionally, Creighton was tied for the best free-throw shooting team in the country, yet the Bluejays were held to five before DePaul started intentionally fouling. What they made up for, according to Bruno, was their elite 3-point shooting. 30 of Creighton’s first 44 points were 3-pointers. 

“We knew going in that’s something they wanted to do, and in the second half we held them to one or two threes,” Bruno said. “We really try to play clean defense, but we’re last in the Big East in defensive 3-point percentage, some stuff that’s gotta be fixed here.”

Bruno’s team is spearheaded by an offensive force in Anaya Peoples, who is averaging 18.5 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game on the season. Peoples credited DePaul’s team chemistry for her growth going into the season after an exhibition against Lewis University Oct. 29.

“This is probably the closest team I’ve ever had in my five years of college,” Peoples said. “We truly love each other and we know that’s big and we know team chemistry is big.”

Allen is a proponent of the team’s spirit this season, publishing her basketball story on the DePaul Athletics website Jan. 10 in which she details how the culture at DePaul has reignited her passion for basketball by allowing her to discover her other interests like writing and exploring the art and culture of the city she now calls home. She demonstrated how the team culture led to her 11-point third quarter after a shaky first half.

“I was kind of struggling to finish in the first half,” Allen said. “My teammates were encouraging me during the half and I came out and I played very physical. I was able to get my feet underneath me and finish.”

The Big East portion of the season, which began with a December 20 win against Xavier in Cincinnati, is often called the “second season” because a team’s Big East record determines seeding for the coveted Big East tournament. Bruno said competing with experienced teams presents a new challenge to a DePaul team with eight newcomers this season.

“The groups at [Marquette and Creighton] have been together a long time, and that’s very important to college,” he said. 

However, Bruno senses the level of competition in the Big East is higher than ever. He said that UConn getting knocked out of the top 10 for the first time in 16 years fuels the fire for a competitive conference without a clear leader in the Big East.

“It’s an interesting dynamic because these teams are all really good and everybody can beat everybody else,” Bruno said. “It’s an exciting league to be a part of.”

Bruno also said the quarter system, which he remembers from his time as a DePaul player from 1969 to 1973, allows the players more time off from school before the new year. However, he knows they will have to refocus on school while their schedule toughens, which is another challenge to overcome.

DePaul’s game against Marquette was the second Saturday of three in a row against ranked Big East opponents. The Blue Demons are set to visit Connecticut’s Huskies next Saturday after a rematch at Wintrust Arena against Xavier Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.

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