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Tenacious defense by No. 20 DePaul ruins Northwestern’s night

With WNBA scouts in the stands and a special appearance from Mrs. Bruno herself, the Blue Demons gave a much anticipated showdown in the fourth quarter defeating the Wildcats 89-66.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-DePaul vs Villanova David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago, IL — DePaul came into tonight’s game hoping to replicate what they did last year in this rivalry game: give Northwestern their first loss of the season. Last year, Northwestern was on a 10-game winning streak, before DePaul broke it with a 77-64 victory. Both the Blue Demons and the Wildcats have gotten off to great starts, as both were undefeated.

And while DePaul is known for playing fast, it was anything but that to start the first quarter, as they came out flat, possibly due to their seven-day break between games.

Northwestern kept the Blue Demons to a low 26% from the field, allowing only 15 points in the first quarter. The Wildcats shot 48% with 12 points coming from down low.

“We were just terrible on offense for 15 minutes,” said Doug Bruno on DePaul’s slow start. Bruno went on to say that his team started to settle down and key players like Ashton Millender and Jessica January played big minutes.

The Wildcats started the second quarter on a 5-0 run, which put DePaul in an uncomfortable trail position for most of the second quarter. That is, until Blue Demons’ Claire McMahon drilled a three that gave DePaul a 31-30 lead. But not to be outdone, senior teammate January kept the new found momentum going, as she shot a tough reverse layup under the basket.

And this clearly got January going.

With five seconds left in the first half, January put an amazing move on Northwestern’s Ashley Deary to help close out the second quarter on a 10-2 DePaul run. The Blue Demons headed into the locker room up, 38-30.

The third quarter looked much like the opening quarter of the game for the Blue Demons: slow paced and sloppy, allowing the Wildcats to stay within reach. It wasn’t until the middle of the fourth quarter when DePaul finally played “DePaul Ball” and outpaced Northwestern, 51-36. The Blue Demons improved their shooting to 57% in the second half while holding the Wildcats to 37%.

DePaul’s constant attacking of the paint wore out the Wildcats in the second half. Northwestern just had no answer for the relentless play of the Blue Demons. It clearly had an effect, as Northwestern’s best player in the first half, Ashley Deary, struggled mightily, after scoring 12 points in the first half, she was reduced to 2 points for the rest of the game.

“We got out of rhythm. Instead of attacking them, we let them attack us,” stated Deary.

“It was a frustrating end of the third quarter, and that was the difference in the game,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “DePaul played really well in spurts and got really hot at the right time.”

January also had 12 points at halftime, but unlike Deary, she let the flame burn longer and higher as she took over to lead the Blue Demons.

January ended the night with 25 points, tying her performance from UAB last Saturday. She also garnered 6 rebounds, while and dishing out 6 assists.

Her performance was simply spellbinding.

“She should have came to Northwestern,” laughed McKeown when asked about his thoughts on January’s performance tonight.

It wasn’t just January who took control, but Millender once again played big minutes for DePaul helping her team break away in the fourth quarter. Millender added 13 points and four rebounds. The help didn’t stop there, as Kelly Campbell had an impressive night coming off of the bench, shooting 4-for-6 behind the arc, also scoring in double figures with 12 points of her own and pull down seven rebounds.

“Rebounding has been a key that we were focusing on all week,” January said. “We aren’t going to outsize most teams we are going to play, so rebounding is going to be important.”

The Blue Demons hope to bring that mentality with them, as they hit the road for the Gulf Coast Showcase on the 25th against Western Kentucky. Tip-off is at 11:30 a.m. ET.