Big East Sixth Man of the Year Taylor Pikes has yet to see action this year. Freshman point guard Chanise Jenkins went down just before the Rainbow Wahine Classic in mid-November with a foot injury and she, along with fellow frosh Alexa Gallagher, has been red shirted this year. All-America Keisha Hampton is out for the season after undergoing right knee surgery this week. Seniors Deanna Ortiz and Maureen Mulchrone also have missed games due to injury.
Saturday's 60-52 upset loss to Providence saw the Blue Demons with only eight players dressed to play.
And yet, No. 20/18 DePaul sits at 14-3 (2-1 Big East) including a solid 59-50 win against No. 15/16 Georgetown last Tuesday.
DePaul coach Doug Bruno has been through this type of season before. His 2007 squad had, at one time during the season, only seven players available for action. That team qualified for the NCAA tournament with a 19-13 record.
What Bruno and his staff have been able to do this year is to determine successful combinations of players. He talked earlier in the year of times where Jenkins and Brittany Hrynko would be on the floor together. Gone. There was hope that Pikes could return to the team sometime in December. Also gone.
With varied starting lineups in the early part of the season, Bruno appears to have settled on a starting line up of Ortiz, juniors Anna Martin and Katherine Harry, sophomore Jasmine Penny and freshman Hrynko.
One of Bruno's mantras for his teams over the years is "we will," and, so far this year, that has won the day over injuries.
Ortiz has been a player that Bruno consistently refers to as one whose impact doesn't always show up in the box score. Her role as President of DePaul's Captains' Council speaks to those intangibles. A great three-point shooter, injuries have slowed her from getting into an offensive rhythm.
Martin is third in the Big East at 18.2 ppg and seventh in assist/turnover ratio at 1.5. She has paired well with Hrynko in the back court. She remains a player who is capable of scoring 25-30 points a night and one who wants the ball in crucial situations. She scored 30 points against Northern Illinois and five points in the last two minutes against Georgetown. She leads the team in assists with 52.
Harry has scored in double figures in seven games this year and also has seven games of double digit rebounding. Her double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds was instrumental in beating Georgetown. Averaging 8.4 ppg, Harry has advanced offensively in recent games and has done a great job as DePaul's only true post player.
The biggest surprise of this year's team has been Penny. Averaging just 2.6 ppg last year, she has come on to lead the Big East in field goal percentage this year at 63 percent while averaging 10 ppg. She plays well in Bruno's system and has stealth-like scoring ability similar to Felicia Chester from last year's Sweet Sixteen squad.
Hrynko has proved to be a continuum of learning the art and science of playing college basketball. From the season opener through the win against Georgetown, where she scored 17 points, her learning curve continues to decrease. A top 100 recruit, she is similar to what Hampton showed her freshman year: a wealth of physical talent who is held back only by going through the things that freshmen must go through. Her 11.1 ppg average is third best on the team. She is second behind Martin in assists and steals.
And while the starters have logged 1963 of the 3000 minutes played so far this year, Maureen Mulchrone, Kelsey Reynolds and Megan Rogowski have made valuable contributions to the team.
Mulchrone, another player whose contributions are seldom measured in printed numbers, is averaging 4.4 ppg and 2.7 rpg.
Reynolds, benefiting from having played one year of college ball before transferring to DePaul, is second on the team in three-point field goal percentage behind Martin. She has emerged as a good floor leader in spelling Hrynko at point guard.
Rogowski, recruited from Hersey H.S. as a three-point specialist, struggled a bit early with her outside shot, something Bruno has attributed to possible nerves from playing in front of the home crowd. She had a breakout game at Illinois State with 11 points.
DePaul ranks first in the Big East in three-point field goals at 9.1 per game, third in points per game at 80.4 and first in three-point field goal percentage at 37 percent.
The loss to San Diego State in the Wahine Classic seems, at this point, to have been an early lesson in fitting together.
DePaul's loss to Tennessee was a game where the Blue Demons trailed by seven with thirteen minutes to play before Hampton fouled out and the Volunteers pulled away.
Saturday's loss to Providence, however, may be one where the injuries are starting to have a cumulative, debilitating effect. DePaul's starters averaged 35 minutes of playing time. Hrynko scored just four points on 2-13 shooting and committed nine turnovers.
It is a tricky trap to play the "what if" scenario, one that leads nowhere. A team has what it has when it has it.
And with the rest of the Big East dead ahead, the only scenario DePaul can play right now is, as Bruno is fond of saying, "winning one in a row."
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