Blue Demons defeat USF 77-61

By Etheria Modacure

The DePaul University Blue Demons women’s basketball team is quickly becoming a top team to watch this season in the Big East. The Blue Demons (15-2, 4-0) won their third consecutive game when they beat the University of South Florida Bulls (9-9, 0-4) 77-61 at McGrath Arena on Jan. 11.

With four players scoring in double figures, the Blue Demons were able to use a balanced offensive attack to keep the Bulls from taking control of the game.

Senior forward Felicia Chester led the Blue Demons with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field. Head Coach Doug Bruno said the team needs more production from Chester in the paint to help them sustain success.

“We really want to establish Felicia Chester inside,” Bruno said. “We think she’s really a talented basketball player. She’s been defending for us [and] rebounding for us since she got here.”

Chester entered the game against the Bulls averaging 11.4 points per game which ranked 24th in the Big East. She averages 6.2 rebounds per game this season after averaging 6.9 last year.

With her strong performance against the Bulls, Chester didn’t sound like she was basking in her glory but critiquing it. She said she was a little frustrated in the first half because she wasn’t making easy shot attempts.

“I wasn’t making shots I should have [been making],” Chester said. “In the second half, most of my points came from the free throw line, but I decided to keep my head in the game and do what I could on defense and rebounding.”

Bruno noted other key contributions from Blue Demons junior forward Keisha Hampton, who had 18 points to go along with seven rebounds.

“It was huge when [Hampton] knocked down a couple of key three-pointers in the second half,” Bruno said.

Hampton shot 3-for-6 from behind the arc in the second half.

The Blue Demons held the Bulls to shooting 36.9 percent (24-of-65) from the field throughout the game. They also outrebounded the Bulls 45-43 and had more assists, which were 17-10.

The Blue Demons began to pull away from the Bulls in the second half after leading the Bulls 37-29 at halftime. The Bulls remained close with the Blue Demons at the beginning of the second half as they trailed by no more than five points until DePaul went on a 25-12 run to close out the game.

Blue Demons junior guard/forward Taylor Pikes, who sparked the team with 17 points off the bench, scored 10 points in the first half. With Pikes having a double-double effort off the bench, Bruno said he doesn’t normally campaign for postseason honors in January but believes Pikes could be the front-runner for Sixth Man of the Year in the Big East.

“She’s just been giving us great energy off the bench,” Bruno said. “It’s one of the reasons why we [have] been bringing her off the bench because her energy has been so solid and so effective. She’s been getting better with each and every game.”

The Blue Demons have four remaining games against ranked opponents in the Big East with two of those contests on the road against the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University. Bruno said it’s too early to predict this season’s outcome, but he said he believes this could be a special year for his basketball team.

The Blue Demons are on pace to make their eighth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance this season. At 15-2, they have surpassed their total win from last season through 17 games when they were 14-3. Bruno commented on the Blue Demons’ ability to have multiple players score in double figures and attributed it to his players’ selflessness.

“It’s really why this team has a chance to be special,” Bruno said. “Not just good, not just great, they really have a chance to be a special basketball team. What makes them special is that they share. No one really cares about who scores and who gets the credit.”