Women's College Basketball

No. 18/20 DePaul Challenges No. 4/5 Connecticut on Tuesday


CHICAGO – Any basketball player who signs on with coach Doug Bruno’s high-flying, pyrotechnic, shoot-it-or-share-it traveling fireworks show that seeks to win big in the most entertaining fashion—also realizes she will come face to face with some of the most daunting challenges on the collegiate hoops landscape.

Already in this year of the pandemic, No. 18/20 DePaul has confronted three teams that ascended into the nation’s Top 10 in the early season.

After coming up two points short of No. 10/10 Texas A&M, learning a lesson against No. 2/2 Louisville and applying said lesson in a victory over No. 9/9 Kentucky in a their best game of the season, now the Blue Demons encounter the gold standard of college basketball.

No. 4/5 Connecticut on Tuesday at Gampel Pavilion is so much more than simply a perennial NCAA title contender and winner of 11 NCAA tournament titles. The game will be televised on SNY.

The Huskies and legendary coach Geno Auriemma are always a threat to one day surpass their amazing legacy of winning 111 games in a row (Nov. 17, 2014 to March 31, 2017).

Auriemma’s very close friend and staunch rival Bruno dedicates himself to imparting a sense of fearlessness into each of the players he has coached over the last 35 years.

Play fearlessly, but with a healthy dose of genuine respect for your opponent and for the beauty of this game. When the Blue Demons are at their collaborative best, the synchronized movement of the ball and players flows seamlessly with the rhythmic cadence of a Broadway dance number.

The endgame of all this carefully planned orchestration is to free up a shooter for a wide-open look. Then it all comes down to cashing in for two or three points.

Knocking down shots and doing a creditable job on the backboards could keep Bruno & Co. within striking distance of an undefeated UConn (5-0) powerhouse that is beating opponents by an average of 40 points a game.

DePaul’s six players averaging in double figures will need their “A” game in Storrs, Conn. BIG EAST Player of the Week Sonya Morris is averaging 18.7 points a game with Dee Bekelja at 16 per game. Then comes Lexi Held (15 a game), Jorie Allen (14), Deja Church (13.9) and freshman Darrione Rogers (10.9).

The Blue Demons’ full-court pressure that is fourth in the nation at forcing turnovers will seek to neutralize the significant height advantage posed by the Huskies’ talented 6-foot, 5-inch Olivia Nelson-Ododa (17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds) and 6-3 Aaliyah Edwards (10.7 points per game in BIG EAST play).

Connecticut can also tear a game open with its four-guard assault team headed by transcendent freshman Paige Bueckers (18.2 points, six rebounds, six assists) and versatile Christyn Williams (17.6 points, 5.6 rebounds). That dynamic duo is supported by backcourt mates Evina Westbrook and 6-2 Anna Makukrat.

In four BIG EAST games, the Huskies are averaging 92 points a game. Overall, they are outrebounding opponents 44-30 and holding them to a measly 28.8 percent shooting.

Playing with a degree of confidence and composure against a juggernaut like Connecticut is precisely what Bruno is instilling into his players.


And it’s a big reason why they came to Lincoln Park.

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