Big East Powerhouse

By Etheria Modacure

The NCAA Women’s Final Four will be held in Indianapolis, and one program looks to make the short trip from Chicago to the Conseco Fieldhouse. The DePaul University women’s basketball team has been winning games with an aggressive playing style on both sides of the basketball court and may be one of the select four teams playing for a championship in April.

The Blue Demons are off to one their best starts in program history with an unbeaten streak in their first seven Big East games. This is the first time DePaul has done this since its induction into the conference in the 2005–2006 season.

DePaul is one of two teams to win its first seven conference games along with the University of Connecticut.

With a 20-2 record through 22 games, this is the best  start the Blue Demons have had since the 2003–2004 season when they began 21-2 and were in Conference USA. The Blue Demons also became the first women’s team to reach 20 wins this season.

DePaul Head Coach Doug Bruno said this season’s team has the chance to be special. The Blue Demons have one of the best scoring offenses in the Big East, averaging 78.4 points per game through Jan. 20, which is third in the conference.

For the Blue Demons to continue their hot streak against Connecticut, Syracuse University and Georgetown University, the Blue Demons will need to play with a focus on intangibles and sustaining momentum, according to Bruno.

“I love when this team plays with intelligence and energy,” he said after the Blue Demons’ 77-59 victory against Seton Hall University on Jan. 22.

The Blue Demons led that game by as many as 38 points, but Bruno was more concerned with how the team allowed the Pirates to play stronger in the second half.

While the Blue Demons have a top-notch scoring offense, when they face the likes of Connecticut, Syracuse, Marquette University and Georgetown, they will be up against teams ranked in the top half of the conference in scoring defense.

“If this team is going to be as good as people [say] they’re going to be, there’s a lot of fixing that still has to get done,”

Bruno said.

The Blue Demons, who were the 12th ranked team in the nation on Jan. 24, beat the then No. 2–ranked Stanford University handily on Dec. 16, 91-71.

Bruno placed an emphasis on rebounding and said he is concerned when his team gets outrebounded by its opponents.

For the season, the Blue Demons average 13.8 offensive rebounds, which is 10th in the Big East, and rank fifth with 26.4

defensive rebounds.

“I don’t care who’s on the other side of the [ball],” Bruno said. “We expect to be the rebounding winner, that’s our job. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing against.”

The Blue Demons’ next two opponents are ranked one and two in the conference in defensive rebounding. Connecticut averages 29.7 per game, and Syracuse averages 28.6 per game. This could be troublesome for the Blue Demons when shots aren’t falling for them.

With the Big East being loaded with quality forwards, DePaul boasts a combination of agility and shot-blocking at the

forward position.

Senior forward Keisha Hampton leads the Blue Demons in points scored at 16 per game and averages 5.4 rebounds. Senior forward Felicia Chester averages 6.2 rebounds per game and sophomore forward Katherine Harry leads the team with 6.7 rebounds per game.

One of the better reserves DePaul has to provide a spark from the bench is junior forward/guard Taylor Pikes. She has been hailed as a possible Sixth Man of the Year candidate by Bruno.

Pikes averages 7.6 points per game but has scored in double figures in four of five games from Jan. 11–25.

She understands the importance of the Blue Demons staying aggressive through a game, acknowledging this after DePaul’s victory against Seton Hall.

“My confidence is growing with every game,” Pikes said. “It’s a growing process. I’ve just got to take my shots when I’m open, if not, pass [the ball].”

Sophomore guard Anna Martin, third on the team in scoring with an average of 10.9 points per game, said the team will need to stay focused throughout a game. She mentioned Bruno always tells the team to look at each game like it’s tied at zero during halftime.

“We can stay on each other and keep pushing each other,” Pikes said.

Martin didn’t give any excuse for the Blue Demons possibly getting tired during their stretch of playing three games within six days. She said practicing to remain aggressive on offense and defense and fighting through fatigue is something the team does routinely.

“That’s what we practice for,” Martin said. “What we work all preseason for is to play at that intensity.”