March 17, 2012
ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - DePaul managed to develop into one of the better shooting teams in the country while using only seven players through most of the season due to a number of injuries.
Brigham Young, meanwhile, used outstanding defense throughout the season before a surprisingly strong performance on the other end of the court helped clinch its first NCAA berth since 2007.
These teams have not met since 1990 heading into Saturday night's first-round matchup between the No. 7 Blue Demons and 10th-seeded Cougars at Allstate Arena.
DePaul (22-10) is making its 10th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Demons finished eighth in the powerful BIG EAST despite losing leading returning scorer Keisha Hampton to a knee injury on Dec. 31. In addition, Taylor Pikes and Alexa Gallagher never suited up due to injuries while Maureen Mulchrone and Chanise Jenkins combined to play only 11 games.
"I'm so proud of this group for fighting their way into the NCAA tournament," coach Doug Bruno told DePaul's official website. "That's a tribute to the players. All seven of them could have cashed it in when the team was hit with that rash of injuries. Instead, they just rolled up their sleeves and went to work."
DePaul ranked 19th in the country in field-goal percentage at 43.8 percent. Junior guard Anna Martin averaged a career-high and conference-best 19.1 points.
BYU (26-6), meanwhile, ranked 14th in field-goal percentage defense at 34.4 percent, and feels confident about slowing down the Blue Demons.
"DePaul's a very good team, very well coached, and I think it will be a good challenge for us, but I also think we match up very well with them," coach Jeff Judkins said. "For me that's how I look at it, as a coach, is what team you match up the best with and where you can cause some problems, and I think we can cause DePaul some problems."
The Cougars captured the West Coast Conference tournament in impressive fashion by defeating then-No. 23 Gonzaga 78-66 in the title game March 5. Dani Peterson had 18 points and 12 boards while Haley Steed finished with 17 points and eight assists as BYU shot a season-high 60.4 percent.
"I know right now my team is very confident," Judkins said. "They know that if they go out and play the way they can that they can beat anybody."
Steed ranks fourth in the nation with 7.2 assists per game, including 35 over her last four contests.
"BYU has a really good point guard in Haley Steed," Bruno said. "The Cougars have good size and a good inside game."
DePaul is 22-4 all-time at Allstate Arena, where its men's team plays its home games. The Blue Demons have won three of five all-time meetings with the Cougars.
The winner will face second-seeded Tennessee or No. 15 Tennessee-Martin in Monday's second round.