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No. 2 Notre Dame punishes DePaul with physical play

Brianna Turner set the tone physically for the Fighting Irish en route to its 9th win of the season over the Blue Demons.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at DePaul Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

CHICAGO, IL – From tip-off No. 2 Notre Dame sought to physically overpower No. 16 DePaul. The Fighting Irish held off a second-half surge by the Blue Demons en route to a 75-61 victory on Saturday night.

Thus far, DePaul has relied on its offensive output this season to guide them to victory. When shots aren’t falling, though, it becomes extremely difficult to string together wins.

Head coach Doug Bruno’s squad is 3-3 over its past six games and has yet to truly find its identity as a team this season.

“We’re too small to be good with one player,” Bruno said. “We had better offensive fluidity tonight against high-level competition, but it still wasn’t enough. Right now, with this group, we’re at a place of simplification.”

Senior guards Jessica January and Brooke Schulte were the only Blue Demons who scored in double figures, with 19 points apiece.

Notre Dame had four players score in double figures, while Brianna Turner stifled the DePaul offense most of the night. The junior forward finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Notre Dame stressed a more physical style of play early. Muffet McGraw’s squad consistently halted DePaul’s drives by stepping into driving lanes and forcing the Blue Demons to pass more.

DePaul currently ranks first in assists (174), assists per game (21.8), and in scoring offense (84.4 ppg) in the Big East.

Passing more to find an open shot has worked well for the Blue Demons this season, but against the Fighting Irish, its shooters hesitated far too often.

DePaul’s shooters were constantly affected by the height of Notre Dame’s frontcourt.

“To have to guard someone as strong as Turner, is not an easy task and Lindsay Allen is a great guard,” Bruno said.

The senior guard from Maryland attacked the Blue Demon defense all night. She finished the game with 14 points and 9 rebounds.

Bruno’s team faced an even tougher challenge, when its point guard, Jessica January, went down midway through the second quarter, after tripping on a Notre Dame player’s foot while in transition.

January, who leads the Blue Demons with 16 ppg, struggled with her shot all night. She shot just 8-23 from the field.

During halftime, DePaul was able to muster up some energy and came out attacking on the offensive end.

Senior guard Brooke Schulte hit back-to-back three-pointers to tie the game at 33.

While the Fighting Irish were able to regain a five-point lead, the Blue Demons capitalized on another open shot. Freshman guard Kelly Campbell hit a corner three-pointer to tie the game again at 38 apiece.

Head coach Doug Bruno’s squad couldn’t capitalize on its early second half run, however, and faltered in the fourth quarter by allowing Notre Dame to gain a 14-point lead.

“Playing a tough schedule is good for our team,” January said. “It prepares us for the post-season and allows us to get better every single game.”

The Blue Demons can’t rely on their offense to carry them every single game. For DePaul to grow as a team, the offense must execute against elite teams.

DePaul will look to rebound against Temple on Dec. 15.