Friday, February 3, 2017

No. 17 DePaul 54, St. John's 51: Schulte's 24 points pushes the Blue Demons past the Red Storm

                                                            Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— On a chilly Friday night on the North Side, the No. 17 DePaul Blue Demons (19-5, 11-1 Big East) completed the season sweep of the St. John’s Red Storm (15-8, 7-5 Big East) 54-51 at McGrath-Phillips Arena behind another top-notch performance from Brooke Schulte with a game-high 24 points.

Schulte’s offensive prowess peaked in the third quarter with 12 straight points, which gave DePaul its biggest lead at 44-33 and highlighted a 13-0 run over 4:51 on St. John’s.

Despite the run, Schulte saw the contributions of her teammates as an underlying factor.

“That’s the thing about our team, everyone has to take the load as opposed to one person carrying things,” Schulte said.

The inside portion of the Blue Demons’ one-two punch, Jacqui Grant finished with 10 rebounds, but struggled on offense going 3-of-16 from the field (eight points) and committed seven turnovers.

“Jacqui is a very talented basketball player and is one of those players that has to slow it down sometimes," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "If she can settle down a bit, she will be okay for the Seton Hall game, since she gave us 23 points in the first meeting."

After a 4-of-4 start from the field, DePaul’s defense limited St. John’s leading scorer Jade Walker (14.1 PPG) to 1-for-7 of from the field and finished with 13 points in 35 minutes.

“Jade is a really good player and we had some schemes in the game plan to stop her, but it took us to the second half to really execute our defensive schemes," Bruno said.

Schulte set the tempo on offense for DePaul with seven of the first nine points of the game as St. John’s maintained a one-point lead in 4:49 through the first quarter.

Walker made her presence known in the opening quarter by establishing a post presence with half of the team’s 18 points, on 4-of-4 shooting.

The second quarter witnessed the Red Storm cling to their lead for the majority until a wraparound layup and conventional three-point play from Jacqui Grant with 1.8 seconds left gave the Blue Demons a 31-29 lead at halftime.

DePaul’s lead grew to as many as 15 points in the third quarter, but struggled to muster any offense as it went scoreless in the first 6:28 of the final quarter. St. John’s could not take advantage as it only scored five.

The Red Storm’s Alisha Kebbe fouled out at the 4:04 mark on an over the back foul and Tanita Allen ended the Blue Demons’ scoring drought with a layup on the next possession.

Down 53-48 with 1:53 left, Walker picked up a technical foul, which doubled as her fourth personal after a verbal exchange with Allen. Kelly Campbell failed to convert both free throws as a result.

Grant fouled out with 29.1 left in regulation on an offensive foul, in which she set an illegal screen on St. John’s Crystal Simmons.

St. John’s window to cut into DePaul’s slim lead closed temporarily as Lauren Prochaska came thru with a purpose and took the ball away from Maya Singleton and split the pair of free throws.

“Lauren is a really important piece with our starters out. She can get the ball up against anyone and she tightented things up on (Aaliyah) Lewis in the second half,” Bruno said.

Both teams return to action on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. as the Blue Demons look to win 14 of their last 15 games as the Seton Hall Pirates come to town, while the Red Storm travel 90 minutes north to Milwaukee for a meeting with the Marquette Golden Eagles.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.