DePaul entered Friday night expecting a stiff test from a Green Bay team that had reached the NCAA Tournament in nine of the past 10 seasons and that is exactly what they got. Unlike last year against Northern Colorado, however, the 15th ranked DePaul women’s basketball team was able to open the season with a 73-64 win over Green Bay Friday night at McGrath-Phillips Arena thanks to a 20-3 run to close the game.
It did not start well for DePaul as they turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter as the Phoenix took an early lead. It was a surprisingly off-night for junior guard Kelly Campbell, who finished with just five points and six turnovers.
“I personally had a rough first quarter, I couldn’t execute passes,” Campbell said. “There was a lot of stagnant on offense, but we figured it out in the second half.”
Although the Phoenix were able to get too many easy baskets in the first half, DePaul’s full-court pressure started to have an impact in the second half. The Blue Demons forced the Phoenix into 24 turnovers on the night and were capitalize with 26 points off those turnovers.
“We are small, so we are a high-risk high reward defense, and we extend the floor that way,” head coach Doug Bruno said. “I think we have to extend the floor, because of lack of overall size, then you’re going to give up points in paint. That is the give and take we have to deal with here.”
Green Bay outscored DePaul 22-2 in points in the paint in the first half, as the Phoenix looked to push it inside early and often. The Phoenix continued to dominate this area out-scoring DePaul 38-16 on the night.
Coming down the stretch of the fourth quarter, it was DePaul’s defense however, that made the difference. With the Phoenix leading 57-51 with eight minutes to go, DePaul held Green Bay scoreless over the next two minutes as they began to cut into the lead with a three by senior guard Rebekah Dahlman.
The fourth quarter belonged to DePaul as they shot 55 percent from the field while holding Green Bay to just 29 percent as the Blue Demons out-paced the Phoenix 22-11 in the final quarter.
“We were able to wear down a very good Green Bay team,” Bruno said. “When we were playing straight man defense, they were able to pick us apart and get anything they wanted.”
Dahlman led DePaul in scoring with 21 points while shooting four-of-eight from the field to go along with 11 free throws. Dahlman returned to the court after suffering a season-ending injury in the 2017-18 season opener against Northern Colorado.
“It felt great to be out there, and I’m just doing anything that I can do for the team,” Dahlman said. “I’ve been here for six years, so I know the little things, especially when I was helping the team off the court.”
The senior guard said beginning with Green Bay, the goal for her is just to continue to stay healthy and close her career out on a high note.
“I’ve been having a lot of injuries throughout my career and a lot of adversity,” Dahlman said. “But this the year you know coach always says one solid year, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
After Dahlman gave DePaul a 62-61 lead with just under four minutes to play, it was senior guard Ashton Millender’s turn to continue the rally. Millender, who struggled much of the night hitting just four-of-10 3-point opportunities, connected on her final three to give DePaul a 65-61 lead and the lead for good.
Despite the loss, it was an impressive effort from Green Bay who were without their starting forward Karly Murphy, after she tore her ACL in her left knee one minute into Tuesday’s game against Northwestern. The Phoenix also lost starting junior guard Caitlyn Hibner for the season due to an arm injury earlier this year.
Senior Mart’e Grays, who led the team in scoring last year, scoring 14.4 points per game struggled Friday night missing all six of her shots in the first half. Although Grays finished the night with only five points and didn’t make her first shot until midway through the third quarter.
“She’s a very good player but she just didn’t have a great game tonight,” Bruno said. “She still brought special moments tonight. Down the stretch, she made big plays and is capable of that. She’s just got to stay focused and ready. I expect her to have an All-American type of year.”
The road only gets tougher for DePaul as they are back in action next Saturday at the Wintrust Arena when they host top ranked Notre Dame.
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