DePaul Takes On East Carolina
CHICAGO - The DePaul women’s basketball team looks to get back on the winning side of the ledger with a Monday night matchup at East Carolina. DePaul’s 10-game winning streak came to end on Saturday with a 74-70 loss at Charlotte. With the loss, the Blue Demons became the final team to lose a Conference USA game and are one of six league teams with one defeat. The club stands at 18-2, the best start in 30 seasons of women’s basketball at DePaul University.
DePaul enters the game at No. 13 in the latest Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA Coaches rankings. The club leads the nation in scoring with 90.9 points per game and steals with 15.6 per contest.
East Carolina enters the game with a 14-5 overall record and 5-1 mark in C-USA action following a 75-61 loss against Marquette on Saturday afternoon. Monday’s game can be heard live at www.depaulbluedemons.com. Jeff Friedman is in his third season on the headset for the DePaul and will describe at least 23 games this season on DePaul’s official athletics website. A 20-minute pre-game show precedes each broadcast and a post-game show will wrap things up after every game.
Noting the Blue Demons: The 2003-04 campaign is the 30th season of women’s basketball at DePaul University... the team is averaging an NCAA-high 90.9 points per game... they have scored at least 90 points in 10 games and 100 points five times... the five 100-point games are a single-season school record... DePaul has scored at least 50 points in a half on 12 occasions this season... at least four players have scored in double-figures in 15 games... Khara Smith has earned Conference USA Player of the Week honors three times this season and was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 20 Candidates list... she is the nation’s only player to rank in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage... DePaul’s former 10-game win streak was the longest since a 17-gamer from Jan. 11-Mar. 3, 1988... there have been just five winning streaks of at least 10 games in school history... DePaul is 8-1 on the road and has won 13 of the last 16 regular season C-USA games... the 6-1 league start equals the best C-USA start by a DePaul team (1995-96 team went on to finish 13-1)... the victory at Holy Cross was the 500th in the program’s history... two more victories will give the program its 13th 20-win season... the club has 312 steals while forcing 491 turnovers... the team single-season steal record is 493 by the 1988-89 squad... DePaul has trailed at halftime just twice this season (at Holy Cross and at Charlotte)... in 805 minutes of play this season, the team has trailed for just under 11 percent of the time (87:15)... in six C-USA games (280 minutes), the Blue Demons have trailed for 35:59... at the free throw line, DePaul has made 351 free shots while opponents have attempted 322... with the Dec. 14 win at the Allstate Arena, the Blue Demons are 20-4 all-time in Rosemont.
Checking on the Pirates: East Carolina enters the game at 14-5 overall and 5-1 in Conference USA play after dropping a 75-61 decision on Saturday against Marquette. The loss to the Golden Eagles snapped an eight-game winning streak. The Pirates are off to the best start since the 1980-81 season and have won 12 of the last 14 games. Courtney Willis leads the team with 18.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Head coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener is in her second season as head coach of the Pirates. She holds a 26-21 record in Greenville.
The series: Monday is just the third all-time meeting between the two teams with each team winning on their home floor. A year ago at the DePaul Athletic Center, the Blue Demons set a then-arena record with 105 points. Five players scored in double-figures in the 105-70 win led by Ashley Luke’s 19 points. The Blue Demons connected on 14 three-pointers with five each by Luke and Sarah Kustok. In the only meeting at Williams Arena, the Pirates posted a 65-53 win on Feb. 8, 2002.
Khara Smith Named to Wooden Award Midseason List: DePaul sophomore forward Khara Smith was one of 20 players named to the Midseason All-American list for the inaugural Women’s Wooden Award. Smith was added to a list that includes Duke’s Alana Beard, Connecticut’s Diana Taurasi and Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante. Entering the week, Smith was the only player in the nation ranked in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. Through 20 games, Smith leads DePaul and Conference USA with 14 double-doubles, 20.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. In March, the Wooden Award Committee will select 15 players for the official ballot with the 2004 Award ceremony taking place on April 10 in Los Angeles.
Demon Doings: Notes following the 74-70 loss at Charlotte on Jan. 31:
Home Cookin’: In four seasons, the DePaul Athletic Center has proven itself as one of the toughest venues in the Midwest. The Blue Demons have posted a 43-8 (.843) record in the arena’s first 51 games. In their 30th season, the Blue Demons have an all-time home court record of 287-88 (.765). Over 26 seasons at Alumni Hall, the women’s basketball program won over 75 percent of their games with a 242-80 all-time record. At the Allstate Arena, the women’s program has posted an all-time record of 20-4. DePaul returned to Rosemont this season with a 102-57 win over Southern Illinois on Dec. 14.
Tennessee snapped DePaul’s 18-game home court winning streak with the 96-89 overtime decision on Dec. 17. In 30 seasons of women’s basketball at DePaul University there have been 12 streaks of at least 10 straight home victories. The longest streak was a 20-game run from Feb. 4, 1978 to Feb. 19, 1979. The 18-gamer over the last year is the second-longest streak in school history followed by a 15-game home court win streak from Mar. 5, 1994 to Feb. 26, 1995. Currently, the Blue Demons have a six-game home winning streak.
In the Rankings: In the latest edition of the NCAA statistics, the Blue Demons rank among the nation’s leaders in a variety of categories. Through games of Jan. 26, DePaul leads the nation in steals, scoring offense and winning percentage, is third in scoring margin, fourth in three-point field goals per game and eighth in assists per game. The club is also ranked 11th in field goal percentage and 27th in fewest turnovers per game. Khara Smith is the only player in the country ranked among the nation’s top 25 in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and steals. She is also the nation’s only player in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. The sophomore is fifth in field goal percentage, eighth in rebounding, ninth in scoring and 25th in steals per game. Ashley Luke is 13th in three-point field goals per game and Jenni Dant ranks 15th in steals per game. Charlene Smith is 44th in field goal percentage and 57th in scoring.
In the C-USA rankings for all games through Jan. 25, DePaul ranks first in scoring offense, scoring margin, field goal percentage, assists, steals, turnover margin, assist/turnover ratio and three-point field goals per game. Khara Smith leads the league in double-doubles, scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage. Dant leads the league in steals, Khara Smith is third and Charlene Smith is sixth. Jenna Rubino and Sarah Kustok are second and third in three-point field goal percentage and Luke ranks second in three’s per game. The team sports three of the top 12 C-USA scorers with Khara Smith first, Charlene Smith at fifth and Dant at 12th.
Player of the Week Times Three: Sophomore forward Khara Smith was named the Conference USA Player of the Week for the third time this season after wins over Louisville and Cincinnati. Smith opened the weekend by matching her career high with 26 points against the Cardinals. She also pulled down 15 boards while going 11-for-13 from the field. On Sunday, she bettered her Friday performance with a career-best 35 points and 10 rebounds for her 11th double-double of the season. She averaged 30.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game while shooting .767 (23-30) from the field.
On Dec. 8, she earned the league honor after leading the Blue Demons to wins over Northwestern, Illinois and Holy Cross. In the three wins, she tallied two double-doubles while averaging 22.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. For the week, she posted a .571 field goal percentage with eight steals and eight assists.
On Dec. 22, she picked up her second honor of the year after shooting .735 (25-34) from the field in games against Tennessee, Alabama State and Valparaiso. She averaged 19.0 points, nine rebounds and three steals in the three games.
Smith is the first DePaul player to earn the weekly honor this season and the only league player to be recognized three times this season. As a freshman, she was named player of the week on two occasions.
Back in the Polls: With the 18-2 record, the Blue Demons are placed at No. 13 in the latest Associated Press poll. DePaul entered the poll on Dec. 22 at No. 22. The current slot of 13th is the program’s highest ranking surpassing the previous high of No. 15 during the 1995-96 campaign. A year ago, DePaul held the No. 25 slot for two weeks in January before a pair of losses at Saint Louis and Memphis knocked them out of the rankings. The Blue Demons have received votes in every poll this season. In program history, DePaul has been ranked a total of 34 weeks with a record of 33-27 as a ranked team.
In addition to the AP recognition, DePaul stands at No. 14 in the ESPN/USA Today/WBCA Coaches top 25. The Blue Demons made their coaches poll debut on Dec. 23 at No. 21 and remained there for three weeks. A year ago, the club was ranked as high as 20th in the coaches poll.
All in the Family: Cousins Charlene and Khara Smith have been an offensive force since joining the club a year ago. The two are among team, C-USA and national leaders in scoring, rebounding and steals. Khara, a sophomore, has 14 double-doubles this season and averages team-high’s of 20.8 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Charlene, a junior, is second on the club with 18.1 points per game and 67 assists. The cousins also rank second and third in steals with Khara swiping 63 and Charlene totaling 56 steals. The two have combined for 43 percent of the scoring this season.
In the C-USA opener against Louisville, the two Smith’s combined for 52 points on 26 points each. Khara grabbed 15 boards while Charlene was 10-for-11 from the free throw line with four rebounds. At UAB, the duo totaled 54 of DePaul’s 88 points and in the Southern Miss game each tallied a double-double while combining for 37 points and 23 rebounds. In C-USA games, Khara is averaging 23.0 points per game while Charlene is checking in with 20.7 points per contest.
Speaking of Family: Siblings and coaches Maggie and Jamie Dixon are a combined 32-2 this season. Jamie, the men’s head coach at Pittsburgh, has the No. 7 Panthers holding a 20-1 record in his first season leading the Panthers. Maggie, an assistant at DePaul, has the Blue Demons at 18-2 and ranked No. 13 in the latest AP poll.
With the win over Boston College on Jan. 28, Pittsburgh became the first men’s team to win 20 games this season. The Blue Demons are among a handful of teams vying for the same distinction on the women’s side.
Puttin’ It On the Board: The Blue Demons have kept the scoreboard operators busy as they are averaging 90.9 points per game this season. DePaul has topped the century mark five times and scored at least 90 points in 10 games. In school history, a DePaul team has scored at least 100 points in a game 29 times without a loss. The five 100-point games this season are a single-season record surpassing the four occasions in 1994-95 and 1995-96. DePaul’s 1,819 combined points are the highest total through 20 games in program history. The single-season team scoring record is 2,589 points in 1995-96.
In the NCAA rankings through games of Jan. 26, Duke is second with an average of 84.1 points per game. Baylor’s 1,519 total points rank second to DePaul’s nation-best 1,749 points. The 90.9 average is the highest team average since Grambling’s 92.2 points per game during the 1994-95 season.
Swarming: Despite all of the offensive numbers, the DePaul defense has been devastating to their opponents. Through 20 games, the Blue Demons have made 312 steals while forcing 491 turnovers. DePaul has converted the 491 mishaps into 542 points (27.1 ppg). At Northwestern, DePaul took advantage of 30 Wildcat turnovers for 39 points and used 27 Holy Cross mistakes to generate 39 points. Against Tulane, DePaul took advantage of 26 Green Wave miscues to score 36 points. In back-to-back games, the Blue Demons outscored Illinois-Chicago, 43-6, and Southern Illinois, 44-9, in points off turnovers.
Taking Advantage From Beyond the Arc: The DePaul women’s basketball program has turned the three-point field goal into a potent offensive weapon. This season is no different as the Blue Demons return their top two sharpshooters from last season in Sarah Kustok and Ashley Luke. Kustok led Conference USA with a .445 three-point field goal percentage while Luke tied DePaul’s single-season record with 94 three’s last season. Joining those two is freshman Jenna Rubino, who currently ranks second in C-USA in three-point field goal percentage. The trio’s 115 combined three’s are 42 more than all DePaul opponents combined.
As a team, DePaul has made at least one three-pointer in 227 consecutive games. Over the last four seasons the club has knocked down 845 trifectas compared to just 408 for the opposition. In the last two seasons, the Blue Demons have set new single-season records with 230 in 2001-02 and 233 in 2002-03.
In 20 games this season, the Blue Demons have outscored their opponents by 261 points from three-point range (13.1 ppg). DePaul is 160-455 (.352) from behind the arc while opponents are 73-255 (.286). The squad averages 8.0 three’s per game while the opposition makes 3.7 treys per contest.
Giving to Charity: Along with the accuracy from behind the arc, the Blue Demons also rank among the best in Conference USA from the free throw line. Over the last three seasons, DePaul has finished either first or second in the league in free throw percentage. The squad finished the 2002-03 campaign ranked second with a .718 (425-592) season percentage. Prior to finishing second, DePaul was a combined 384-520 (.738) from the free throw line in 2001-02 to rank first among Conference USA schools for the second straight season. In 2000-01, the Blue Demons led Conference USA with a .716 overall mark from the free throw line.
Through the first three games this season, the club struggled from the charity stripe with a combined .623 (43-69) percentage. However, in the last 17 games, the Blue Demons are a combined 308-for-406 (.759) from the line. In addition to the accuracy, the Blue Demons have attempted to use the theory of make more free throws than the opponents attempt to ensure success. DePaul has made 351 free shots while the opposition has attempted just 322.
Against Louisville in the C-USA opener, the team made 20 straight before finishing the game 20-of-21 from the line. Currently, the club is ranked second in the league and holds a combined .739 (351-475) percentage. The team single-season record is .738 set during the 2001-02 campaign.
Against the State: DePaul has seen recent success against opponents from the state of Illinois. Over the last 24 games against Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Loyola-Chicago, Northern Illinois, Northwestern and Southern Illinois, the Blue Demons have posted 23 victories. In games this season against Northwestern, Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois, the club was 5-0.
A year ago in Champaign, the Illini snapped a 14-game winning streak against state opponents for DePaul with the 71-67 decision on Dec. 4. In addition to the 14-game streak ended last year, DePaul has won 29 of the last 31 games against state opponents. Currently, the Blue Demons have nine straight wins over Illinois schools following the 70-60 victory at Northern Illinois on Jan. 3.
TV Time: As always, the DePaul women’s basketball program will be featured multiple times on national television. This season, the Blue Demons are scheduled for at least five televised games. They will be on the C-USA Network twice with games at TCU on Feb. 22 and Marquette on Feb. 29. The 88-61 win over Cincinnati on Jan. 11 was be broadcasted on ESPN2. FOX Sports Net Chicago televised the 99-60 victory over Tulane on Jan. 25. The Marquette matchup on Feb. 8 will be broadcasted regionally on ESPN2. The Blue Demons are just one of 14 women’s basketball programs in the country scheduled to appear on the ESPN network multiple times this season.
DePaul was no stranger to the cameras last season as 10 games were televised. The Blue Demons posted a 6-4 record in televised games last year and have won 13 of the last 18 televised games. Over the last two seasons, DePaul has won five of six games on C-USA TV including wins over Tulane, TCU, Marquette and Louisville.
Eyeing 1,000: At USF on Jan. 18, Jenni Dant became the 18th player in DePaul basketball history to surpass the 1,000-point mark in her career with a three-pointer at USF. Through 81 career games, the junior has 1,055 points. She is averaging a career-best 15.1 points per game this season after leading the club in scoring at 14.4 (460 points) points per game a year ago. As a freshman, Dant tallied 293 points while averaging 10.1 points per contest. Before Dant, the most recent DePaul player to enter the 1,000-point club was Lenae Williams. She finished her four-year DePaul career ranked second all-time with 2,046 points. Next on the 1,000-point horizon is sophomore Khara Smith with 866 points in 56 career games.
Preseason Picks: Prior to the start of the season, the Conference USA coaches picked the Blue Demons to finish second behind preseason favorite TCU. The Horned Frogs earned the league’s automatic bid by winning the C-USA Tournament in Memphis after starting as the fifth seed. Charlotte, who won the league regular season title a year ago, was picked fourth just behind Cincinnati. DePaul posted a 10-4 record to earn the third seed in the 2003 conference tourney.
Junior Jenni Dant was named to the league’s preseason All-Conference team after earning second team All-CUSA honors after last season. Houston’s Chandi Jones was named the preseason Player of the Year and was joined on the league’s preseason team by Dant, Sandora Irvin of TCU and Cincinnati’s Valerie King and Debbie Merrill.
Eyeing 300: With DePaul’s first win this season, DePaul head coach Doug Bruno earned his 300th victory with the Blue Demons. In his 18th season with the Blue Demons, he stands at 317-200. Along with being the winningest coach in DePaul women’s basketball history, Bruno has also tallied the most victories among Conference USA coaches at their respective schools. Laurie Pirtle is next with 264 wins at Cincinnati while Jeanne Milling has tallied 263 victories at UAB. Milling leads all C-USA coaches with 424 overall victories.
Nothing but the Best: The 2003-04 schedule features 13 opponents that played in the postseason a year ago. Among the 13 are 10 teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last March. The Blue Demons took on Alabama State, Illinois, Tennessee and Valparaiso in non-conference action at the DePaul Athletic Center while traveling to Holy Cross and Manhattan. A year ago, Conference USA sent seven teams to postseason action. Charlotte, Cincinnati, TCU and Tulane joined the Blue Demons in the NCAA Tournament while Marquette and Saint Louis played in the WNIT.
DePaul is 7-2 this season against 2002-03 NCAA Tournament teams with losses to Tennessee and Charlotte.
Recapping the Moran Realty Classic: The Blue Demons captured their third straight Moran Realty Classic title with wins over UW-Milwaukee and Northwestern State. DePaul opened the tournament with a 94-62 win over the Panthers and a 109-73 victory over Northwestern State in the championship game.
In the final against Northwestern State, records fell as the Blue Demons set a new DePaul Athletic Center record with 109 points. The club also tied the program’s single-game record with 15 three-pointers and set a new program mark with 39 three-point attempts.
Preseason Picks, Part II: In the Athlon Sports preseason Top 25, the magazine slotted DePaul at No. 18. The Blue Demons were one of two Conference USA programs in the Top 25 as TCU was picked 22nd. The No. 18 ranking is DePaul’s highest preseason ranking by any magazine as the Blue Demons are coming off a 22-10 record in 2002-03 and a NCAA Tournament appearance.
Two-time defending National Champion Connecticut was Athlon’s preseason favorite. The Huskies were followed by Duke, Kansas State, Stanford and Texas. Tennessee, who the Blue Demons lost to in overtime, was ranked ninth.
Looking Ahead: The DePaul coaching staff signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country as Erin Carney, Allie Quigley and Caprice Smith signed National Letters of Intent to play for the Blue Demons starting next season. The trio makes up one of DePaul’s top recruiting classes in the program’s 30 years. Overall, Carney, Quigley and Smith are ranked as the nation’s 10th-best recruiting class by the Women’s Basketball News Service and No. 15 by the Blue Star Index.
Carney, a 6-1 forward, led the St. Francis Gladiators to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. Michigan and Montana are the nation’s only states that play girls high school basketball in the fall. Carney averaged 19.0 points and 17.4 rebounds per game while leading the Glads to a 18-3 record. This season, she has put together game highs of 29 points and 25 rebounds in a game. She finished sixth in Michigan’s Miss Basketball voting and was Class C All-State honoree by the Associated Press.
Quigley, a three-sport standout, was an honorable mention All-American by Street and Smith in 2003 and is ranked No. 78 on Blue Star’s top 100 seniors. In addition to her honorable mention All-American honors, she also earned All-State mention by the Associated Press, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune last season after averaging 28 points per game.
Smith, a 6-2 forward, led Trinity to the first Elite Eight appearance in school history last season while averaging 21.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. She also shot .450 (54-120) from three-point range. Following her junior season, she received first team All-State honors from the Chicago Sun-Times, Champaign News-Gazette, Chicago Tribune and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. She is ranked No. 29 in the Blue Star Index Top 100 seniors and No. 50 by the All Star Girls Report.