January scored a game-high 26 points to lead four players in double figures as DePaul beat Lewis 87-67 Saturday night in the final exhibition games for both teams.
January was injured in February of 2015, and she did not practice from that time until the end of last year. She was shut down after DePaul’s NCAA second round loss to Notre Dame. She was not able to work at all until mid-to-late summer of this year, and she was not on the court from April-July.
But that was then.
She scored 23 points in DePaul’s first exhibition game versus St. Xavier, and tonight she shot 7-13 from the field to go along with a game-high nine rebounds, a game-high six steals and a game-high-tying eight assists.
“Jessica had a game where she was doing everything she always does, but she was dropping the ball in the basket today,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno.
And with injury came insight.
“I think I have a new perspective on the game,” said January. “Being out last year was very difficult. I love playing and I love working hard. It doesn’t matter what the competition is, you want to give your best. With some of the offensive and defensive pressure that we play, you get fatigued. But when you are hurt, you wish you could be tired and you could play. That makes it a little bit easier to work hard every single day.”
Lewis has been picked as the No. 2 team in the country in the 2015 Division II Bulletin preseason poll. The Flyers finished 31-3 last year and advanced to the Elite Eight. The Flyers lost to Loyola in overtime on Wed. night.
The Flyers warm up jerseys said “focus, finish, fight, for 40” on the back. And that was true for the first 11 minutes tonight.
Lewis’s Jamie Johnson has been named this year’s National Preseason Player of the Year in Division II. Her 3-pointer (team-high 21 points) at 9:36 of the second quarter cut DePaul’s lead to 27-24, but any charms the shirts held then evaporated.
January then blocked Johnson’s jumper and fed Tanita Allen for a 3-pointer and a 35-26 DePaul lead. January’s 3-pointer 30 seconds later was followed by a Chanise Jenkins’s (16 points) steal and feed to Brooke Schulte (15 points) for a layup on the break as DePaul opened up its largest lead up to that point at 40-26. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Jenkins and Schulte gave DePaul a 50-35 halftime lead.
Johnson scored 29 points versus Loyola, but had to take 25 shots from the field to get there. January guarded Johnson for most of tonight’s game, and Johnson took 19 shots tonight. DePaul had 15 steals and forced 21 turnovers.
DePaul’s Megan Podkowa was limited tonight due to injury, and she practiced little this week. She scored five points and had seven rebounds in 25 minutes. She was visibly hampered by what appeared to be a leg injury.
The two teams last played each other on Nov. 1, 2006, a 93-83 DePaul exhibition. Lewis beat Loyola, Northern Illinois, and Marquette in exhibition play last year. The Flyers held opponents to an average of 63.6 ppg last year.
The Flyers opened the third quarter on an 11-6 run, cutting DePaul’s lead to 56-46 at 6:58. January’s layup, 3-pointer, and steal off Johnson followed by one free throw pushed DePaul’s lead to 64-53 with just over one minute to play in the third quarter. DePaul never trailed in this game and had its largest lead of 22 points with 4:48 left in the game.
DePaul opens the regular season versus Southern Illinois in the preseason WNIT this Friday at 7:00 p.m. Central time at McGrath-Phillips Arena.