Despite a strong performance by sophomore forward Abby O’Connor, the Loyola women’s basketball team (6-5) closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 102-76 loss to No. 20 DePaul University at Gentile Arena Thursday night.
O’Connor had 12 of Loyola’s 24 points at halftime and finished with a career-high 31 on 12-for-19 shooting. She also grabbed eight rebounds in a season-high 39 out of 40 minutes. Sophomore guard Ellie Rice scored 18 points, 16 of which came in the second half. The Ramblers committed 26 turnovers on the night, which led to 34 points for the Blue Demons.
“What about Abby O’Connor?” Loyola head coach Kate Achter said after the game. “Just a fantastic stat line and [she] played almost the entire game. While the scoreboard [didn’t] work in our favor tonight … lots and lots to be pleased with looking at the box score.”
DePaul, which has made 16 straight NCAA Tournaments, improved to 9-3 on the year with the victory. Six Blue Demons scored in double figures, led by Chante Stonewall’s 14 points. Rebekah Dahlman recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
DePaul head coach Doug Bruno, who was the Loyola associate men’s basketball coach from 1981-88 and is in his 32nd season in Lincoln Park, said he didn’t want his players to take the game lightly because of the talent he sees on Loyola’s roster.
“I’m just impressed with some of the kids [Achter’s] got here,” Bruno said. “O’Connor and Rice are really talented players, so we had to be ready to play. I think our players did a good job of understanding the moment and not letting down … our kids were ready.”
The Ramblers kept pace with the Blue Demons in the first quarter, trailing 17-14 after the first 10 minutes. But DePaul took control in the second and third quarters, outscoring Loyola 45-28 over that span to take a 62-42 lead into the fourth quarter. Both teams’ offenses woke up in the final period as they combined for 74 points as DePaul came away with the victory.
Loyola competed with eight healthy players, as first-year guard Janae Gonzales was sidelined with a concussion and sophomore guards Alexis Meyer and Kailyn Strawbridge were each dealing with knee injuries. Meyer hasn’t played this season, but Achter said she’s been cleared to resume practice.
Achter added she expects Gonzales to be back for Loyola’s next game Jan. 6 but didn’t have an update on Strawbridge’s injury.
Loyola’s 6-5 record is its best through 11 games since 2011-12. When Achter started at Loyola in 2016, the Ramblers were 1-10 in that span. She said she’s proud of how far the program’s come and is excited to see what’s next.
“All of our kids have given us moments to be happy about … and it’s just a matter of time before it all starts to combine,” Achter said. “That’s what the point of non-conference play is. You want to try and work all the kinks out so by the time you hit what really matters, you’re prepared.”
The Ramblers are scheduled to open MVC play against Valparaiso University Jan. 6 at Gentile Arena.
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