The DePaul women’s history of success in basketball runs deep.
The Blue Demons will make their 18th consecutive NCAA appearance after winning their third consecutive Big East tournament title, beating Marquette 88-74 on Monday night at Wintrust Arena.
“We wouldn’t be sitting up here as champions if [Marquette] didn’t take us to school the way they took us to school eight, nine days ago,” coach Doug Bruno said.
Bruno’s team was relentless on defense and lethal from three-point range. Sky guard Diamond DeShields sat courtside in awe of the Demons’ three-point shooting.
“Their three-point shooting percentage is better than their field-goal percentage,” DeShields said. “I don’t think I’ve seen that.”
Before the third quarter was over, the Demons had set a tournament record, making 43 three-pointers over the weekend.
Chante Stonewall, Lexi Held, Sonya Morris and Kelly Campbell combined for 14 three-pointers. Held scored 15 of her career-high 31 points from three-point range.
Held, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament, didn’t even realize she had scored more than 30 points until Campbell told her after the game.
“That’s just how we play,” Held said. “Every shot that we shoot, we practice. I think the freedom, having the greenest green light in America, is what allows us to shoot as well as we do.”
It was the first time in Big East history that the same teams have played in the championship game four years in a row. Despite DePaul’s dominance, the rivalry was felt from start to finish. Marquette simply couldn’t make up for DePaul’s 30 points off turnovers.
“We started losing some confidence out there,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said. “I thought DePaul’s pressure, they kept turning it up, especially in that second quarter.”
Despite the accolades and consistency, Bruno’s team fails to get the recognition that other elite programs such as Connecticut, Notre Dame and Tennessee do.
It might be because their recruiting pool is smaller or that they haven’t made a Final Four or won an NCAA championship. Also, when compared to other conferences, some say the Big East doesn’t hold up. Regardless, DePaul’s NCAA tournament consistency is matched by only four programs: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Stanford and Tennessee.
“I’m not just doing this to count W’s,” Bruno said. “We’ve watched this program go from infancy to where we are, but we still aspire to move into that level of play. That’s why I still coach.”