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Feisty DePaul gives No. 1 UConn a fight, unravels late

No. 18 DePaul unravels in the second half, as Breanna Stewart and No. 1 UConn pull out 86-70 win.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago, IL -- No. 18 DePaul has been yearning to prove itself against a worthy opponent. Tonight against the No. 1 ranked Connecticut Huskies, DePaul pushed itself as far as possible before ultimately losing 86-70.

"I thought our players earn the right to start to become confident," head coach Doug Bruno said. "Of course you want to win the game... But in the bigger context of our season that's what we want to do."

Head coach Doug Bruno's squad started the game with an intensity only seen in March. To play against UConn, one must have the right mindset. For a half, DePaul had it.

Guard Jessica January took it upon herself to set the tone offensively.

As the second quarter got under way, UConn pulled out to an early seven point lead, and it looked as if DePaul would start to unravel.

January though, kept her team in the game by pulling up for a deep 3-pointer that not only got the crowd excited, but also gave her team the energy to keep fighting.

"Our whole team was excited to play the No. 1 team in the country," January said. "When you have open shots, you have to take them. And I was just trying to do that tonight."

The Richfield, Minnesota native went 3-of-5 from deep in the first half and finished the night with 18 points and six assists. January displayed the confidence necessary to compete with UConn play-after-play, yet the rest of the team wasn't able to do the same.

The Blue Demons shot 48% in the first half and just 35% in the second. What worked for DePaul in the first half - shooting three's -- didn't come to fruition again in the second half.

While coach Bruno's squad clawed for every point, UConn and head coach Geno Auriemma, had All-American Breanna Stewart to rely on.

"I didn't want Stewart to play the whole 40 minutes," Auriemma said. "But I just couldn't see myself taking her out. There was too much chaos going on. We needed someone that could help us everywhere on the floor."

DePaul didn't have an answer for Stewart in the low-post, and it proved costly. She out hustled the Blue Demons for second chance points and finished the night with a game high 29 points and 12 rebounds.

Stewart and forward Morgan Tuck were the reasons UConn outrebounded DePaul 47-27. Tuck, a Bolingbrook, Il native, registered 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The Blue Demons have been eager to prove themselves amongst the nation's best. So far against teams ranked in the top-5, DePaul is 0-2.

There's still a long way to go before March, though, and DePaul now knows it can play with the best of them. Trouble is maintaining that play over 40 minutes.

DePaul will have a chance to rebound on Saturday when they play Illinois State.