Even though DePaul Lady Blue Demons Coach Doug Bruno's grandchildren call him "Grandpa Demon, " Las Vegas and the DePaul Blue Demons, despite the imagery, are generally not synonymous with each other.
But there they are, in Sin City, and for good reason. They're gambling that this tournament will make them winners once again. The five-day trip to the land of neon lights and casinos features a visit to Hoover Dam, taking in the Cirque du Soleil show and competing in the “Duel in the Desert” women’s basketball tournament Thursday-Saturday at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
“The last time we played at the Duel in the Desert was in 2009,” Bruno remembered. “We had just gotten beat by No. 2 Stanford in California and had to make a decision that would have a huge impact on our season. Do we go back and home and then travel to Vegas or stay out West?
“We chose to stay, and I believe those 11 days bonding together built the foundation for our NCAA Sweet 16 team the following season."
The team will be staying at the glamorous New York-New York Hotel & Casino. This year, the bonding of this version of the Lady Blue Demons could take place while hopping aboard the “Big Apple Coaster” with its 180-degree “heartline” twist and dive maneuver.
“I am definitely going on the roller coaster,” Chanise Jenkins said.
I wish I were going to this tournament. A picture of Coach Bruno on the roller coaster would have been priceless.
But Bruno wants anything but a roller-coaster performance from his team in Las Vegas.
“We’re going through a stretch of playing four games in six days, and this is a very important part of the season as we come closer to the start of BIG EAST play,” Bruno said of the 5-3 Blue Demons. “It’s an opportunity to play good teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference (Pittsburgh), the Pac 12 (Washington) and the Sun Belt (Louisiana-Monroe).”
The DePaul women’s basketball team begins a stretch of three games in three days on Thursday when it begins the "Duel in the Desert' Tournament at Noon (PT) against Pittsburgh at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. In the 2 p.m. game on Thursday, Pittsburgh (6-4) will attack DePaul behind Brianna Kiesel who is averaging nearly 16 points a game and Asia Logan who is averaging 11.6 points and 7.3 rebounds.
On Friday, the Blue Demons will face a balanced Washington (3-3) team at 4:30 p.m. that features Jazmine Davis (17.5 points a game), Kelsey Plum (16.8), Talia Walton (15) and Aminah Williams (9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds).
The Blue Demons’ second and third games against Washington and Louisiana-Monroe, respectively will tip at 2:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
DePaul enters the tournament averaging 86.2 points per game and is coming off a 90-76 win over Dartmouth on Dec. 16. The Blue Demons use a balanced scoring attack as all five starters – Rogowski, Jasmine Penny, Megan Podkowa, Brittany Hrynko and Jenkins – are averaging more than nine points a game.
Rogowski, who was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll on Monday, leads the group with 15.4 points per game. The junior guard also paces DePaul’s assault from the 3-point line and has 28 triples on the season. Rogowski’s 3.5 3-pointers per game leads the BIG EAST and ranks 11th in Division I.
With DePaul’s offense running on all cylinders, the Blue Demons are shooting .449 from the field while its 20.8 assists per game ranks sixth in the country. The Blue Demons are recording an assist on two-thirds of their baskets while Jenkins leads the team with 5.5 a game. Hrynko follows with 5.0 assists while the duo has combined for 88 of DePaul’s 166 (53.0%) assists.
DePaul and Pittsburgh are meeting for the 13th time, and the first time as a non-conference opponent since the 1980 season. The Blue Demons and Panthers were both members of the BIG EAST Conference from 2005-2013, before Pittsburgh moved to the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. DePaul leads the all-time series with Pitt 8-4 and has won five straight. The two teams have met on a neutral court twice – at the BIG EAST Championship -- and split those meetings.
Pittsburgh (6-4) has won two straight coming into the Thursday’s game while the Panthers have won four of six dating back to Nov. 23. The team is led by Brianna Kielsel’s 15.9 points, 4.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The Panthers are under the direction of Suzie McConnell-Serio, who is in her first year at Pittsburgh after spending the previous five Duquesne.
DePaul’s game with the Panthers will be streamed live on www.tgvn.tv, and GameTracker is also available. In-game scoring and notes can be followed at twitter.com/DePaulWBBSID.
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