DePaul Women Claim Conference USA Opener
After closing Alumni Hall with a victory over Marquette last season, DePaul opened the DePaul Athletic Center with a win in its inaugural Conference USA contest. The Blue Demons topped the rival Golden Eagles, 70-65.
With leading scorer Lenae Williams sidelined with an injury, the team proved it is capable of playing well in her absence.
"This was an important game overcoming adversity," said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. "It always makes a game more adventurous when your leading scorer is out."
Despite the missing component in the team's works, a host of players stepped up at differing points in the game. While the Blue Demons struggled to find a rhythm inside early on, Molly Watson and Candice Blankson sparked the offense with three pointers to help it stay in the game.
"Marquette did a great job of taking it to us at the outset," said Bruno. "They pounded us inside for most of the first half and we struggled to contain them."
Containing them was only half the battle. Even when a tough shot was forced, most of the Golden Eagle shots seemed to be dropping. In fact, at one point in the first half, Marquette had connected on 61 percent of its shots from the field.
A more concerted effort during the latter part of the first half to work the ball inside helped stem the tide of a Marquette lead that swelled to as many as 10 points three different times. The result of the inside-out attack left the Blue Demons with four players in double digits. Jamie Lewis led the team with 15 points and Briana Fitzgerald added 10 complementing her postmate. Watson and Blankson chipped in 12 and 14 points respectively to provide the long range scoring.
For Marquette, Heidi Bowman led all scorers with 19 points and Sarah Zawodny posted a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
"Zawodny is a testament to what we do in college basketball. She's a kid that has just work and worked and worked and has simply improved her game," said Bruno.
DePaul didn't take its first lead until 33-31 with 2:02 remaining in the first half and after relinquishing it shortly thereafter, didn't reclaim it until 55-54 with 6:04 left in the game. The Blue Demons took the lead for good when they went ahead 58-57 with just under four minutes to play.
"Any conference opener is special because the slate is clean for everybody," said Bruno. "The way to championships comes by defending your home court. If you do that then it comes down to who wins the most road games."
DePaul improves to 7-4 (1-0 C-USA) while Marquette falls to 4-7 (0-1 C-USA). The Blue Demons will travel to Memphis to take on the Tigers on Jan. 5 before returning to the DePaul Athletic Center to host UAB on Jan. 8.