I’ve never been more proud of a DePaul basketball team that lost a game. I don’t believe in moral victories but I do admire a team that works like hell against a much better opponent.
The DePaul Blue Demons women’s team came to play last night, even though they only had seven women on the active roster (injuries have decimated this roster), but had plenty of spirit & hustle. Oh and they were playing The University of Tennessee with the dean of women’s college basketball Pat Summitt sitting at the end of their bench.
Granted Pat Summitt is more like a coach emeritus as she admitted last summer that she has been diagnosed with dementia but still this is THE program for women’s college basketball and they have as deep resources (and bench), as any team in college basketball , men or women.
DePaul played true Chi-Town basketball in the first half, a good “run & gun” system that DePaul’s own legendary coach Doug Bruno uses often and with Big East leading scorer Anna Martin at the wheel, they were within five points of the Lady Vols at halftime.
And that’s when the parity ended.
Tennessee didn’t play up to their potential most of the night but remember the Lady Blue Demons only dressed seven women, the ESPN analysts called it “Iron Woman Basketball” and it was. I was proud to be a Blue Demon alum as they lived up to the coaching legacy of the late great Ray Meyer.
Trust me I know personally how hard the Lady Demons play, some 17 years ago as a young, arrogant gym rat, I played a pickup game against a few of the Lady Blue Demons during open gym at the old Alumni Hall on Belden Street. The words butt whipping don’t accurately describe how myself and as couple of egoistical somewhat chauvinistic freshman got woman handled on that court. I’ve been a fan of the Lady Blue Demons ever since.
This shorthanded woman’s team was sole representative of the NCAA postseason for the state of Illinois, men or women. Coach Doug Bruno invited Governor Quinn and Chicago Mayor Emmanuel to celebrate in his team representing our state and represent they did. Everything that’s ever been said about the “City That Works” or the City of Big Shoulders” was true last night.
Those young women went out there and played David against Goliath and though they didn’t drop the giant, they didn’t drop their heads and say woe is us. They played stout defense forcing 20 turnovers and making Tennessee play an obviously uncomfortable game versus a worthy opponent.
Now as the second half started you could see the Lady Vols really start to take control as they should have, they are a 2nd seed in the tournament and had a 25 win season (though the Lady Demons had their own 23 win regular season), and earlier this year these two teams met In New York City and the Lady Vols beat DePaul by 23 and that’s when the Lady Demons weren’t so short handed.
This game wasn’t pretty by a long shot, it was not the fast, quick passing team you usually see from Coach Bruno, when his offense is running on all cylinders it’s a things of beauty, very much like Coach Tom Thibodeaux has the Chicago Bulls offense always looking for that extra pass to someone WIDE open or a crisp pass in the paint for that nice back door shot.
During the game, the camera showed DePaul men’s basketball coach Oliver Purnell in the crowd, I’m sure he was impressed as all of us were watching the women play their hearts out. He could also learn something by watching the masterful women’s coach Doug Bruno as he navigated his team through a difficult game and wrapped up a challenging season.