Millender came off the bench to tie a career-high and score a game-high 15 points as No. 23 DePaul vanquished second place Xavier 82-52 at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
Xavier (17-7, 8-5) jumped out to a 7-0 lead before DePaul, sparked by two Millender three-pointers, including one off the glass, went on an 18-3 run. The Blue Demons did not trail the rest of the way.
“Coach [Bruno] has talked about when your time comes, just be ready to play,” Millender said. “He says when you work between the touches, the offense comes. I knew it was going to be a good game when I banked a three-pointer off the backboard.”
Millender finished shooting 6-8 from the field, including 3-5 from behind the arc in 22 minutes of play.
“She is a really good basketball player that has been getting a lot of steady minutes for us all season,” Bruno said. “I think it is important that [her scoring] come to fruition on a more consistent basis. It was good to see Ashton give us a lift off the bench.”
Scoring had been boring for Xavier’s opponents, as the Musketeers’ had limited their opponents to 49.7 ppg and a 39.2 field goal percentage in its last three games. Xavier has held five opponents under 50 points this year and it ranks No. 3 in the Big East in scoring defense at 61.3 ppg.
DePaul (20-7, 12-2) broke the 50-point mark at 7:18 of the third quarter when Megan Podkowa drained a three-pointer from the right wing for a 51-21 lead. The 82 points scored by DePaul ties the second highest point total give up by Xavier this year.
The Blue Demons got 44 points from its bench, allowing its Big Three of Chanise Jenkins, Podkowa, and Jessica January to each play just over half the game. Jenkins is the reigning Big East Player of the Week. DePaul is the only school in the conference to have three different players, (Jenkins, Podkowa, and January) earn Player of the Week this year.
Amarah Coleman scored nine points off the bench, shooting 4-4 from the field and adding three rebounds and three assists.
[Amarah] had a pretty good night,” said Bruno. “She is full of life and is a really active player.”
Xavier’s leading scorer, Raeshaun Gaffney, is averaging 12.0 ppg. She was held to three points on 1-6 shooting from the field.
How well DePaul played its style of basketball tonight was exemplified by a Podkowa-to-Millender-to-Mart’e Grays fast break basket in the second quarter where the ball did not touch the floor from baseline to baseline.
This is the ninth straight season where DePaul has had 20 or more wins.
DePaul now leads the series between the two teams 12-1. Xavier’s lone win was on Jan. 23, 1984, in the first meeting between the two schools.
Xavier is No. 4 in the conference in rebounding margin at +2.5, but was outrebounded +6.0 (41-35) tonight.
DePaul plays its last home game of the regular season this Sunday at 2:00 p.m., a Senior Day game celebrating the achievements of seniors Jenkins and Podkowa.
Tonight’s game was DePaul’s designated Play4Kay game. The 2016 Play4Kay initiative is an opportunity for a nation of coaches to raise awareness and funds for women’s cancer research on the court, across campuses, in communities and beyond. Since its inception in 2007, the Play4Kay initiative has helped the Kay Yow Cancer Fund support $5.18 million in women’s cancer research and related projects.
Kay Yow coached collegiately at Elon (1971-1974) and North Carolina State (1975-2008). Her collegiate coaching record is 737-344. She was North Carolina State’s first full-time women’s basketball coach. The Wolfpack won the ACC title in 1978, its first season of league play. Yow’s Wolfpack teams went to 20 NCAA tournaments, eight Sweet 16 berths, and, in 1998, the Final Four. Yow was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 and passed away on Jan. 24, 2009.
This nationwide effort has significance to the DePaul community. DePaul’s athletic director, Jean Lenti Ponsetto, was diagnosed with stage 2 ductal breast carcinoma with lymphatic involvement in Dec. 2014. She is currently cancer-free.
DePaul players and coaches wore black warm up shirts that said “United We Fight” on the front and the players wore uniforms with pink piping and pink headbands in honor of the initiative. The game’s referees brandished pink whistles.