WNIT Championship Preview: DePaul and Baylor

It will be basketball pedigrees aplenty this Sunday afternoon when No. 19 DePaul plays No. 4 Baylor for the preseason WNIT title at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, at 2:00 p.m. Central. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network. This will be the first meeting between the two teams. 


Behind DePaul

DePaul coach Doug Bruno has won 589 games at his alma mater, and DePaul is one of seven teams to have appeared in the last 13 NCAA tournaments. DePaul has been to three Sweet 16’s under Bruno. The Blue Demons were the preseason WNIT runner-up in 2010. DePaul will play six teams this year currently ranked in the Top 25 of the Coaches Poll. DePaul reached the WNIT final by beating Southern Illinois 105-61, St. Bonaventure 77-54, and Indiana 84-69. 

DePaul (3-0) enters the game with six players averaging double figure scoring: senior forward Megan Podkowa at 15.7 ppg; junior guard Jessica January at 14.3; sophomore forward Mart’e Grays at 12.7; senior guard Chanise Jenkins at 12.7; sophomore guard Ashton Millender at 10.7; and junior guard Brooke Schulte at 10.0.

The Blue Demons are averaging 88.7 ppg while giving up 61.3. They shoot 31.7 percent from 3-point range, and their 11 3-pointers versus Indiana was three shy of tying the preseason WNIT record. Millender leads DePaul in 3-point shooting at 43.8 percent and Grays shoots 40 percent. 

DePaul averages 20.7 assists and 13.7 steals per game. Guard Lauren Prochaska was, before the Indiana game, No. 13 in the country in assist/turnover ratio at 7.0. The Blue Demons force 23.7 turnovers per game. Jenkins leads the team in assists with 5.3 per game. January adds four assists per game. DePaul averages 41 rebounds per game and are led by Podkowa’s 9.3 per game. The Blue Demons have outscored their opponents 266-184 this year, including +19.0 in the first quarter. 

Behind Baylor

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has won 440 games there, including national titles in 2004 and 2011. The 2011 team went 40-0. Baylor has reached at least the Sweet 16 the past seven years. The Bears were WNIT runner-ups in 2002. Baylor will play this year five teams ranked in the Top 25 of the Coaches Poll. Baylor reached the WNIT final by beating UT-Arlington 62-20, Southern Mississippi 97-42, and No. 17 South Florida 66-63. 

Baylor (3-0) averages 75 ppg while giving up 41.7. The Bears are holding opponents to 26.6 percent field goal shooting and 30.2 percent 3-point shooting. They average 46.0 rebounds per game and have outscored their opponents 225-125 this year.

The Bears have seven players who are at least 6-foot tall, including freshman Kalani Brown (6-foot-7), and senior Kristina Higgins (6-foot-5). They also have four players who are averaging at least 5.0 boards per game.

Baylor is led by forward Nina Davis’ 14.7 ppg and 5.3 boards per game. Guard Alexis Jones adds 10.3 ppg, while guard Niya Johnson brings 8.3 ppg and 6.7 rebounds per game. Brown averages 9.3 ppg and 6.0 boards per game and has blocked seven shots this year.  

How DePaul Wins

DePaul has to effectively pressure the Bears. The Blue Demons forced 23 turnovers against Indiana, and Baylor had 15 turnovers resulting in 22 points in its South Florida game. DePaul has the depth, especially with the improved play of Millender and freshman Tanita Allen, to push Baylor for 40 minutes. South Florida had 11 steals. 

The 3-pointer must go in for more than one Blue Demon. Millender was 4-9 and Schulte 2-3 from behind the arc versus Indiana. DePaul can ill-afford a percentage like it had against St. Bonaventure, shooting 7-25 (28 percent) from 3-point range. Baylor allowed seven 3-pointers versus South Florida.

The Blue Demons must have some semblance of an inside game against Baylor’s height. The Bears scored 42 points in the paint against South Florida and outrebounded the Bulls 42-38.

6-foot-4 junior Brandi Harvey-Carr played the best game of her career versus Indiana, scoring six points and grabbing six boards and running the floor well. She is averaging four rebounds per game. The 6-foot-2 Grays plays primarily on the wing, but she too will be needed inside. She is averaging 4.3 boards per game.

DePaul’s guards are excellent rebounders, and that will need to continue. Millender and Schulte each average 4.7 boards. 

Bruno said after the Indiana game that “as much as we get labeled a run and gun outfit, we have the ability to run the half court offense. We really pride ourselves in scoring, not just in the open court, but in the half court.”

The Blue Demons will need to run an effective half court offensive set. South Florida scored four fast-break points versus Baylor.

Keep the game close enough to have a chance to win at the end. South Florida had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds. Baylor shot 62.1 percent from the line in that game and is shooting 60.7 percent for the year. 

How Baylor Wins

Johnson and Davis play like they are capable of playing. Johnson had 10 points, 13 assists, and eight boards versus South Florida. Davis added 15 points and six boards against South Florida. Davis was the Big 12 Player of the Year last year.

Force the game to be played inside. Mulkey said after the South Florida game that she was not afraid to use a triple-post offense. Baylor played, at times, with four post players. Brown had 11 points in 10 minutes versus South Florida, and Higgins had eight points, 10 boards, three blocks and two steals. 


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