The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

UConn pummels DePaul, shows why matchup is still one-sided

Samantha Davis
DePaul guard Katlyn Gilbert, guarded by UConn superstar Paige Bueckers, looks for an opening on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, at Wintrust Arena. Bueckers finished with 30 points while Gilbert notched 13.

Although recent road scares against DePaul in years past have spooked the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team, their matchup Sunday, Feb. 25 was all UConn.

The all-time season series is now 25-1 in favor of UConn, DePaul’s only win in their first-ever matchup. The average margin of defeat for DePaul women’s basketball in their last ten games against UConn is 24.8 points. 

After 77 years of combined coaching between Geno Auriemma and DePaul’s women’s head coach, Doug Bruno, a level of respect was built up between the two.

“I respect (the players) a lot and I respect (Bruno) a lot,” Auriemma said.

While UCONN was not in the Big East for a stretch, both teams still faced off at least once each year.

“It wasn’t my idea. I would have chosen not,” Auriemma said of playing DePaul when UConn was not in the Big East. “I thought they were a pain in the ass to play against.”

Auriemma and his staff never look forward to playing DePaul, despite the one-sided outcomes.

The losses are lopsided due to the offensive burst UConn possesses year in and year out. Returning from injury in November, Redshirt junior Paige Bueckers and senior Aaliyah Edwards have been responsible for both victories by 37 points. Tonight, Bueckers had 30 points in 33 minutes, carving her way into the paint and getting to the free throw line (11-13 FT) with relative ease.

“Her game is very subtle; she’s not in a hurry to get a shot off,” Auriemma said. “She’s very measured in the way she plays and I have tremendous confidence in her.”

Edwards was dominant on both ends of the floor, using her 6-foot-3 frame to overpower DePaul’s front line. She finished with 23 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.

“She’s usually responsible for at least a third of our rebounds most nights,” Auriemma said. 

DePaul gave it its best effort early on in the first quarter, going basket for basket, but the lead quickly grew to ten to end the first quarter and that would be the closest DePaul came to striking distance. 

Guard Shakara McCline crosses to her right against UConn on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, at Wintrust Arena. DePaul lost 67-104. (Samantha Davis)

Still, that didn’t stop sophomore guards Maeve McErlane and Kate Clarke from having impressive performances. McErlane tallied a career-high nine assists along with seven points. Graduate guard Katlyn Gilbert attacked the basket, scoring 13 points and securing 10 rebounds.

Clarke, one of DePaul’s best shooters from deep, shot confidently and even found some easy baskets inside, taking advantage of UConn’s defensive lapse. Clarke finished with a team-high 24 points, making four of her 10 shots from deep. She’s second on the team in three-point percentage at 34%, behind graduate guard Michelle Sidor at 42%. Clarke’s ten attempts were her most since her 32-point (8-15 from three) outburst against Louisville Nov. 12, 2023.

“It was nice to get Clarke shooting the ball again,” Bruno said. “She’s a really good shooter.”

Drawing positives and learning lessons is important to Bruno, even after a 37-point loss. 

The trio of guard’s performances were the only bright spots in another loss that got out of hand after the first half. In each quarter UConn went on scoring runs making 4 of 5, 5 of 7, and 7 of 7 while playing physical, stout defense for the entire shot clock and not allowing easy looks at the basket. Every bucket had to be earned.

“The dirty little secret about UConn is they are a very good defensive team,” Bruno said.

As a product of UConn’s hounding defense, they scored 32 points off turnovers and held DePaul to 41% shooting.

While a loss like this one is hard to spin, DePaul has another chance for a win against Villanova at Finneran Pavilion on March 3. Bruno hasn’t lost faith yet. 

“This is a great group of people, they’re handling the toughness of their record and defeats,” Bruno said. “They’ve done a good job of staying upbeat and positive and staying in the fight.”

It is worth noting that pregame DePaul athletics honored one of their own. Diana Vines became the fourth player and first women’s basketball player to have their number retired in the rafters of Wintrust Arena. 

Vines, a two-time All-American and North Star Conference player of the year, was a large reason for DePaul’s women’s emergence on a national stage. At the end of the 1988-89 season, Vines was DePaul’s all-time leader in scoring, rebounding, steals, field goals made, free throws made and blocks. Thirty-five years later, those records still stand.

During her thank-you speech pregame, Vines said playing with grit and a high IQ is what separated her and her teammates from the rest of the North Star conference before DePaul joined the Big East. The competition and skill levels in college and professional basketball have only increased.

“This generation of female athletes are totally different than my generation of female athletes and I love it,” Vines said. 

The DePaul women’s program has dropped four of their last five games, Vines reiterated her statement again, urging to maintain a great culture cultivated by Bruno and his staff.

“I think we have great players here at DePaul, I think the grit that they came in with, it’s going to continue to grow and get stronger,” she said.

The all-time revenue record was broken at Wintrust Arena on Sunday night, Feb 25. Over five thousand fans flocked to the South Loop for the contest to watch women’s basketball and sing along to Taylor Swift.

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