Light It Up When DePaul and Oklahoma Meet
March 13, 2018
CHICAGO – You couldn’t ask for a more anticipated NCAA tournament first-round matchup than No. 23 DePaul and Oklahoma going head-to-head Friday in College Station, Texas.
It’s definitely made-for-TV with the 11:30 a.m. game being televised by ESPN2.
In the last two games between these explosive offenses, the Blue Demons and Sooners have combined to score a total of 423 points.
In DePaul’s second game of the season back on Nov. 13, 2017, it took Amarah Coleman’s buzzer-beating three-pointer in overtime to culminate a see-saw battle with a 111-108 victory when Oklahoma was ranked No. 21/21 coming into McGrath-Phillips Arena.
In the 2014 NCAA opener at Durham, N.C., the Blue Demons prevailed 104-100 in the highest-scoring regulation game in NCAA women’s tournament history.
Let the fireworks begin.
“Sherri Coale is a great coach,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno about his counterpart. “They like to score the ball and we like to score the ball, so we’ll see what happens.
“I’m actually thrilled that Oklahoma got in because they played one of the toughest schedules in the country, and sometimes you don’t get rewarded for that. We’re going to play a really good team.”
DePaul (26-7) will enter Reed Arena as the No. 5 seed on a six-game winning streak with 12 wins in its last 13 games. It is the program’s highest seed since entering the 2011 tournament as a No. 3. Oklahoma (16-14) is the No. 12 seed.
In the game back in November, the Blue Demons tied a program record with 19 three-pointers and had six players in double figures led by Coleman’s 23. She hit the game-winner on pure instinct.
“There was a mix-up and I thought: ‘Oh shoot,’” Coleman said. “I just tried to make a play. When I let the shot go, I knew it was going in.”
Kelly Campbell remembers watching the final proceedings from the bench after fouling out with 16 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
“After we lost our season opener to Northern Colorado, we really needed to bounce back against Oklahoma,” Campbell said. “They are so talented, we had to come at them with more energy. I was so glad when Amarah hit that shot because I couldn’t stand to sit and watch another overtime.”
DePaul’s 111 points was seven shy of the Blue Demon record at McGrath-Phillips Arena while Oklahoma’s 108 was the most by an opponent.
“We’re a lot better team now, but Oklahoma is a lot better as well,” Bruno said. “That’s what growing as a team is all about.
“They’re really good and we’re really good, so it’s going to be a great game.”
Campbell and Coleman will be ready for anything come Friday.
“It’s exciting to be playing such a good team like Oklahoma again, especially in the postseason when every game could be one and done,” Campbell said. “They gave us a real tough time when we played in November.”
Coleman nodded her head in agreement.
“They have athletes who can drive to the basket and also shoot it from the arc,” Coleman said. “We have to be ready defensively because they know how to get to the basket.
“It’s going to be another great game. The last time we played, it was a very up-tempo and they are comfortable playing at our pace. We know Oklahoma is going to come at us 10 times stronger this time. This is the NCAA tournament, and we’re both playing for one thing.
“We have a strong bond on this team, like a sisterhood. We are a family, and as long as we stand together, we can be really good in this tournament.”
Bruno has watched his team evolve into a collection of multi-dimensional players who can connect from the arc, take it to the rim and above all, share the ball religiously.
That all added up to a 16th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, the greatest run by any current college team in the state regardless of gender.
“It never gets old---it’s like Christmas never gets old,” Bruno said. “I’m excited for this group. We had a shaky start losing a tough one in our opener against Northern Colorado and losing to a very good Florida Gulf Coast team. We faced a tough schedule and were only 8-4 going into the BIG EAST season.
“But our players have recovered nicely down the stretch, and we’re all looking forward to a successful NCAA tournament.”
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