After watching every possession at home following their 38-point loss to Michigan State on Thursday, DePaul women's basketball graduate student forward Jorie Allen gave an impassioned pre-game speech to get her team fired up for a Tuesday morning showdown with the Green Bay Phoenix.
"I told the girls that we have to have a next level of urgency this game," Allen said. "We have the pieces, and we have the want to; we just have to go out there and do it. There are moments when we're this close, so just having that next level of urgency and playing with love each and for the game, that's really what I try to emphasize."
Thanks to that urgency and a crowd of nearly 7,000 screaming grade school kids, the Blue Demons came through with a clutch 68-64 win.
"I think it motivates us (close games). One of our things is we will finish off close games," graduate student guard Anaya Peoples said. "We were in that position to prove to ourselves that we can finish a close game against a good team, and we did that."
Peoples led all players with 22 points on 11-for-18 shooting while snagging nine rebounds and five assists. Allen nearly tied a career-high in points (21) with 19 today to go along with seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Sophomore guard Kate Clarke was the only other Blue Demon who scored ten or more points, with 11 and four rebounds.
A pair of juniors, forward Maddy Schreiber and guard Natalie McNeal, led the Phoenix offense with 16 points each. Fellow junior Bailey Butler also scored in double figures for Green Bay, with 12 points on 6-for-15 shooting.
A Tale of Two Quarters
It was a night and day difference between the first quarter and second quarter for both Green Bay and DePaul. At the media timeout, the two sides sat tied 11-7 with 4:16 to play in the frame. Neither team could score, as DePaul turned the ball over six times in the final 5:45 of the quarter and shot just 1-for-9. On the other end, Green Bay just went 1-for-13 and committed three turnovers. Both teams also went 0-for-15 from the three-point line in the first.
Things changed in the second quarter as the two teams combined for 39 points on 39% shooting from the field and 5-for-13 from beyond the arc. Natalie McNeal had seven points for Green Bay in the frame, four of them coming in a 7-0 run in which the Phoenix took their first lead of the game, 22-21. Jorie Allen also had seven for DePaul for a game-leading 14 points at halftime for the grad student. DePaul ended the half outscoring Green Bay 10-4 to take a five-point halftime lead, 31-26, thanks to a Jade Edwards buzzer-beating three.
"We're still trying to find ourselves. It's not a young team by birth certificate, but it's a young team by only having two players who have had practice time here before," DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. "Everybody is new, so I think it's still finding each other, familiarizing together inside of what we're trying to do."
Live By the 3, Die By the 3
Coming into today's game, Green Bay was shooting 34% from beyond the three-point line, which was good enough for 5th in the Horizon League. Junior guard Callie Genke had been shooting 40% from three on 4.5 attempts per game, redshirt junior guard Cassie Schiltz had been shooting 46% from three, and even Schreiber shot 47% from three (2.4 attempts per game).
Despite all of that success before today, the Phoenix went on to shoot just 5-for-26 (19.2%) from beyond the arc, with Schriber and Genke combining for four of them. If you take them out of the equation, Green Bay would have shot just 1-for-15 from three-point range (6.7%)
With 3:47 to play, DePaul and Green Bay sat deadlocked after Schreiber and Schiltz made a couple of baskets to tie the game at 58-58. Then the Blue Demons made two plays to push them out to a lead they would never look back on. Clarke would make a three to push the lead to 61-58 with 3:23 to play. Then, on the next possession, after a missed layup by McNeal, graduate student guard Katlyn Gilbert found Peoples for an alley-oop layup to give DePaul a 63-58 lead with 2:10 left. While typically, the word "poise," is used to describe someone's calmness under pressure situations, Bruno said he prefers the term "controlled resolve."
"I thought we had some controlled resolve down the stretch; we didn't hurry trying to force things, and we let some possessions play out, and it wasn't like milk the clock down to seven or eight seconds before you go," Bruno said. "The players just played it out, and by playing it out, it led to some good opportunities."
The Blue Demons will be on the road on Friday, taking on the Miami Hurricanes at 6 p.m. CST.
"Miami is going to be motivated because we beat Miami last year," Bruno said. "They're not going to forget that, and (Hurricanes head coach) Katie Meier does a great job of coaching, and they'll be ready for us."
Meanwhile, for the Phoneix, they will return home for the first time since Nov. 11 as they will host former Horizon League foe, the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.
Cover photo courtesy of DePaul Athletics
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