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DePaul WBB: Big East and Beyond 

CHICAGO - DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno believes that his team, with a No. 18/18 ranking, a 24-7 record, and being this year's Big East regular season champions, is still fighting to prove to the nation that his team deserves a quality seed in the NCAA tournament.

His players have three more games to prove him wrong, a journey that starts this Sunday with the Big East tournament, and Bruno has made it clear what is left for his team to do to win that fight.  

"[To win the tournament], I think we have to stay focused on what has gotten us here," Bruno said on Thurs. "We are a pretty good defensive team and we are getting better. We have been rebounding well, and we are always a team that focuses on sharing the ball. I think we have been sharing the ball really well. But you still have to knock down shots."

And he has the best trio in the Big East to help continue to do those things.

Senior guard Chanise Jenkins was named Big East Player of Year, while senior guard/forward Megan Podkowa and junior guard Jessica January were Second-Team selections.   

Bruno was named Coach of the Year, an honor that he believes goes underneath the surface line of the DePaul iceberg.

"I really and truly believe that Coach of the Year should always read Team of the Year."

And that team, which hosts this year's Big East tournament, has gone 13-4 at home and 11-3 away this year. The Blue Demons have won eight straight and are seeking their third straight conference tournament title. DePaul, 16-2 this year in conference play, is the first team to go undefeated in conference road games since Notre Dame did it in 2012. The Blue Demons lead Division I in total assists with 660.

No. 1 seed DePaul plays No. 8 seed Xavier or No. 9 seed Butler on Sunday, March 6th, at 6 p.m. CT at McGrath-Phillips Arena. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 2. Xavier and Butler play each other on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Jenkins and Podkowa feel no pressure with DePaul hosting the tournament on its home floor.  

"I am still going to be the same Chanise Jenkins I was yesterday, and that means being a great teammate, being unselfish, keep passing the ball, and taking shots I can make," Jenkins said. "It is not going to change my game."

"The level of competitiveness has been so much higher this week," Podkowa said. "No one wants to sit out and no one wants to get hurt. This [tournament] does have a little bit of a different meaning for us, but I don't think we ever feel pressure. Coach Bruno always tells us we should not have result anxiety, but we should have execution anxiety."

DePaul beat Xavier this year 70-53 at Xavier and 82-52 at home. The Blue Demons are 10-1 all-time versus the Musketeers, and beat them 87-53 in last year's conference tournament quarterfinals.

DePaul beat Butler this year 61-54 at Butler and 102-63 at home. The Blue Demons are 8-0 all-time versus the Bulldogs.

But Podkowa knows that tournaments versus familiar foes are seldom easy. 

"I think it is always harder to play a team three times because they understand how you are trying to play them and how you are trying to defend them. I think it gets harder with every game."

But DePaul has reason to believe that past performance may be indicative of future results, as some of its players have had the best of times against these two opponents.

Jenkins tied a career-high with 10 assists versus Butler on Feb. 14 of this year and she had a career-high in steals with six against Xavier on Feb. 8, 2015. 

Junior guard Brooke Schulte scored a career-high 18 points versus Butler on Feb. 6, 2015, and notched a career-high six field goals and a career-high six free throws versus Xavier on Jan. 17, 2016.

Junior forward Jacqui Grant had season-highs of three assists and two steals versus Xavier on Jan. 17, 2016.

Sophomore guard Ashton Millender tied career-high with 15 points versus Butler on Feb. 14, 2016, and had a career-high six field goals versus Xavier on Feb. 12, 2016.

Sophomore forward Mart'e Grays had a career-high three 3-point field goals versus Xavier on Jan. 17, 2016.

"We are playing for a higher purpose," Bruno said. "Yes, we want to win the Big East, but there is another tournament we are trying to get into, make sure that we get into, and then make sure that we have a position once we get into it, to be able to have our best advantage to move on."

"We were happy to play our last regular season home game and get a win, but we still know we have more to do," Podkowa said after the home win versus Butler this year. 

DePaul can go a long way proving the first statement by succeeding in the second statement.


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