DePaul women bow out of Big East Tournament, lose 94-61 to UConn

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HARTFORD, Conn. – There are three elite teams in the country in women’s basketball, according to DePaul head coach Doug Bruno: Baylor, Notre Dame and UConn.

The Blue Demons had the undesirable task of facing the Huskies in front of their home crowd in DePaul’s second game of the Big East Tournament at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn., Sunday.

Connecticut asserted its dominance for the majority of the contest, outmatching DePaul and cruised to a 94-61 victory. The Blue Demons’ fate is now in the hands of the selection committee to decide whether they will earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.

“I thought our players did a much more competitive job tonight than we did a couple weeks ago in Storrs,” said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno, referring to his team’s blowout regular season loss to UConn. “It’s hard to say that when the score is the way score is. This is a hard team to play fast with. That’s one of the places where I put our players in a tough position because we play like they play, except they play it a little better.”

UConn controlled just about every facet of the game, from a brutally effective transition attack to a commanding rebounding advantage. The Huskies excelled on the fast break, outscoring the Demons 27-8 in that regard. On the glass, UConn outrebounded DePaul 47-33, 18 of which came on the offensive end.

“They’re UConn. That’s one of the reasons they’re the best,” said DePaul guard Anna Martin, who finished with nine points and four rebounds. “They’re just hard to guard at every position and they’re so talented. I thought we competed today, but obviously we’re not happy about the score.”

Martin’s three-pointer with under 15 minutes left in the first half cut UConn’s lead to 14-11, the closest DePaul truly was to competing overall. Connecticut soon responded with a 16-3 run, during which sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit a pair of triples. Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 16 points on 4-8 shooting from deep.

“We don’t want to take any teams lightly, and [DePaul is] a good team, a well-coached team and this is when teams play better than they have all season,” said Mosqueda-Lewis. “We wanted to make sure we came out in the beginning of that first half, be aggressive and play Connecticut basketball.”

UConn certainly carried out its offensive gameplan on the interior to near perfection. The Huskies outscored the Demons in the paint 46-14, led by bigs Stefanie Dolson and Breanna Stewart. Stewart led UConn in scoring with 21 points (9-12 FG), while Stewart scored 16 and grabbed seven rebounds.

On Stewart, Dolson thought the six-foot-four-inch freshman did well not to second-guess herself and make quick decisions with the ball.

“She cut to the basket and did a really good job not standing still and making sure she is always moving,” said Dolson. “She was aggressive and defensively she had a few blocks, a few rebounds.”

UConn’s defensive patrolling of the paint made getting any shot off difficult for DePaul, allowing them to only shoot 27 percent from the field in the first half. The Huskies’ misdirected countless shot attempts, which carried on for the majority of the game.

In the second half, however, DePaul made a bit of run, knocking down shots and forcing UConn to adapt on defense. The Demons were led in large part by Megan Rogowski, who finished with a team-leading 15 points, all of which came in the second half. Rogowski scored nine straight points during the run, which ended with DePaul trailing 73-48 with just under eight minutes to play.

“[DePaul is] a team that I think is one of the harder teams to defend in our league,” said Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “You saw that one stretch where, when they were making shots, they’re really hard to defend.”

In the end, UConn’s depth and talent got the better of DePaul, maintaining its lead to come away on top.

“We played a really good basketball game,” said Auriemma. “The game was well played by a lot of our players, individually and as a team … so I’m really, really happy with what we did.”