Blue Demons sent off to 11th straight NCAA Tournament

Before getting fitted for Cinderella slippers, the Blue Demons first need to slide into some cowboy boots with spurs.

With final exams out of the way, DePaul’s women’s basketball team can now focus all its attention on its upcoming duel with the Oklahoma State Cowgirls in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Blue Demons were sent off to the tournament by a crowd of fans, friends and families at McGrath-Phillips Arena Friday morning, a big turnout for a program making its 11th straight appearance in the NCAA’s.

“This is what the players play for, and collegiate athletics spend an entire year working for the quickness of this tournament,” said head coach Doug Bruno. “The fans really love it and the media loves the tournament. You work so hard to get here and it’s just one in a row as many times as you can make it happen.”

For senior guard Anna Martin, the send-off on campus was a bittersweet moment, embarking on yet another tournament run, but knowing it will be her last.

“I can’t believe this is my last one, going to four different tournaments,” said  Martin. “[The send-off] was definitely a sad moment, had to hold back the tears a little bit.”

Prior to departing, the Blue Demons got one last chance to introduce themselves to the crowd. They looked tired, anticipating a long ride down to Durham, N.C. and Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, but also gave off an anxious energy.

“I think we’re just excited to go out and play at Cameron. The team’s really focused, we’ve prepared well and watched a lot of film so we’re ready to play,” said Martin. “This first week is the first week I think we’ve had our whole team be able to play and I don’t think we’ve played our best basketball yet, so what a great platform to do so.”

DePaul (21-11) and Oklahoma State (20-10) will meet for just the third time in their programs’ history, last facing off in 1991. The Cowgirls beat the Demons 81-80 in the first round of that year’s NCAA Tournament. This year’s Oklahoma State team reached the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament and won the WNIT title last season.

“This is a really good NCAA Tournament team, and we’re going to have to stop them in five different spots, which makes it difficult, ” said Bruno. “They’re a very strong rebounding team and that’s an area we have to get better at ourselves.”