Monday, January 2, 2017

No. 23 DePaul 61, Providence 56: Schulte to the rescue in DePaul's win

                                                      Photo Credit: Geno Green

CHICAGO— A new year can bring new challenges and for the DePaul Blue Demons, adjusting to different lineups have become the norm in the 2016-17 season.

With starters Jessica January (finger), Ashton Millender (foot) and Mart’e Grays (knee) out of commission, Brooke Schulte’s increased role carried the DePaul Blue Demons (11-4, 3-0 BIG EAST) with a game-high 23 points, on 10-of-17 from the field in a 61-56 win over the Providence Friars (9-5, 1-2 BIG EAST) in the BIG EAST home opener at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

The exclamation point came with 1:49 left in regulation as DePaul trailed 54-52 and Amarah Coleman found a wide open Schulte on the wing for a long-range make to go ahead for good, which brought the crowd to its feet.

Schulte did not remember who delivered the pass, but happy to make the go-ahead triple.

"I don't think it was a set play and don't remember who threw it to me, but I made the shot," Schulte said.

Given the struggles on offense, DePaul coach Doug Bruno decided not to put a play together for the go-ahead triple.

"We had to score quickly and could not afford to be picky with our play calling, so we did not set a play," Bruno said.

After a slow start with four points in the first half, Jacqui Grant responded in the second half on offense and finished with a double-double for the second straight game (14 points, 11 rebounds).

"Brooke came up to me at halftime and told me to let the first half go and be aggressive," Grant said. "I took the comments to heart and it helped me in the second half."

Outside of Schulte’s fast start, the rest of the Blue Demons struggled to get into a rhythm as they missed their first ten shots of the game.

The slow start allowed the Friars to execute with ease, especially after Grant went to the bench at the 2:46 mark of the first quarter.

Providence took a one-point lead to the second quarter and kept the pedal to the medal with a bevy of players producing in the scoring department, but Schulte kept DePaul around with timely mid-range jump shots and finished 7-of-10 from the field in the first half. The other Blue Demons continued to struggle going 4-for-30 as the Friars took a 29-24 lead into the locker room.

The Friars’ leading scorer Yoyo Nogic came into the DePaul contest averaging 13.9 points per game and ended with 16 points, on 6-of-13 shooting.

Allegra Botteghi’s layup to start the scoring in the second half gave Providence its largest lead of the game at 31-24. DePaul looked to be on the ropes, but responded with a Kelly Campbell triple, which helped breathe new life into DePaul as it went on a 10-2 run to retake the lead.

The pace became more of a track meet as both teams exchanged baskets and leads on numerous occasions in the remainder of the quarter as DePaul’s offense came alive.

The Friars would not go away as they clung to a 47-47 tie after three quarters and kept the pressure on the Blue Demons for the majority of the final period. The fourth quarter felt more like an old school BIG EAST slugfest as both teams accrued scoring droughts of at least two minutes.

DePaul ended the game on a 12-2 run as it increased its win streak in the series with Providence to eight games.

Despite the win, Bruno knows the project is still a work in progress with the numerous injuries thus far.

"The biggest lesson is we are still trying to find ourselves and is hard to do when you have no time to practice with the players we have lost," Bruno said.

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Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.