Preview: DePaul women’s basketball faces Seton Hall for first place in the Big East

Only a half-game separates DePaul women’s basketball and No. 24 Seton Hall from the top of the Big East standings, so their matchup at McGrath-Phillips Arena will be for first place in the conference.

DePaul (19-6, 11-2) hosts the Pirates (21-3, 10-2) Friday night in the final matchup between these two teams in the regular season. In the first matchup at Seton Hall, the Pirates took control of the game down the stretch and came out with a 107-87 victory.

“I think Seton Hall did a great job against us, they kicked our butts,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “They did whatever they wanted to against us, they ran the floor, got to the rim, got to the free throw line.”

DePaul gave up 100 points that game for the first and only time in the 2014-2015 season and three Seton Hall players had more than 20 points. Junior forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith had 35.

“We didn’t play very good defense that game,” senior forward Megan Podkowa said. “We didn’t come out ready to play.”

The game will be a duel between the two top offenses in the conference with DePaul averaging 88 points a game and Seton Hall averaging 75.6, setting themselves apart from the rest of the Big East. The next closest is Georgetown with 68.

DePaul comes into this matchup on a six-game winning streak and undefeated at home during conference play this season. The Pirates were on an eight-game winning streak before losing to Creighton at home on Feb. 8. DePaul has a half-game advantage in the standings but the team is not adding any extra pressure to this game.

“I guess it’s motivation but we still have our goals that we want to accomplish and Seton Hall being number one defeats our goal but there’s still plenty of season left,” senior guard Brittany Hrynko said.

What the team has been doing is preaching defense in order to stop Seton Hall’s three-pronged attack of senior guards Daisha Simmons, Ka-Diedre Simmons and also Richardson-Smith. Each of them are averaging 17 points or better a game.

“We have to defend,” senior guard Chanise Jenkins said. “We have to take away their threes, we have to take away their easy transition buckets and we have to rebound,”

The loss to Seton Hall was DePaul’s last loss since going on their six-game winning streak. Jenkins believes that during the streak has gone on, DePaul has become an improved team.

“I think since our last meeting with Seton Hall we’re a much better basketball team and looking back at old tapes you can see the difference,” she said. “We’ve grown and matured as a team.”

Despite the growth, DePaul will still need to play a good game in order to beat the Pirates and take control of the top of the Big East.

“Seton Hall is a terrific basketball team and they’re 21-3 for a reason, they’ve beaten some good teams,” Bruno said. “It’s going to be a real tough challenge for us.”