January scored 13 points and the Blue Demons placed four players in double figures as they beat Villanova 77-50 Fri. night.
“I felt a lot of excitement and nerves, but mostly just excitement to get back on the floor,” January said. “I just wanted to come out and compete.”
January started tonight’s game and made her presence felt early, tying up Nova’s Adrianna Hahn for a shot clock violation just 90 seconds into the game. January’s three-quarter court drive and pull-up 12-footer at 5:41 quashed any doubt about her offensive play. She finished the first half with six points.
No. 19/18 DePaul (23-6, 15-2 Big East) remains tied with Creighton for first place in the conference and finishes up its regular season at home this Sunday versus Georgetown on Senior Day.
DePaul had won six in a row before last weekend’s loss to Marquette while Villanova (16-12, 11-6) had won five in a row before tonight.
“It’s great having Jessica back with Brooke Schulte the way Brooke is playing,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “So to see them on the court together and to see them try to start to find a chemistry and synergy between them is something I am excited about and all the possibilities that can be created here as we move forward.”
Schulte scored a game-high 17 points and seems to be the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year with just one game to play. She leads the conference in scoring at 21.6 ppg.
“I have modeled my game after Jessica,” Schulte said. “Just getting our chemistry back and us working together, it is going to be fun rest of the way.”
“Everybody’s more confident now,” Bruno said.
The Wildcats closed to 20-18 in the second quarter on a layup by Mary Gedaka before Schulte answered with a three-pointer. Nova was held scoreless for 3:21 before Megan Quinn’s jumper at 5:34.
Schulte’s drive and kick out to January for a three-pointer showed how dangerous DePaul can be with both players together in the line up. January followed with a jumper to give DePaul its largest lead up to that point at 32-20.
January’s steal at 3:53 of the second quarter moved her past Chanise Jenkins for ninth all-time in steals at DePaul.
Chante Stonewall’s three-pointer and layup capped a 14-0 DePaul second quarter run and a 37-20 Blue Demons’ lead. Stonewall scored nine of her 12 points in the second quarter.
Schulte shot 7-12 from the field and her defense on Alex Louin was equally efficient. Louin came in averaging 12.6 ppg, but did not score her first point until 7:44 of the fourth quarter.
“Brooke is an all-around player,” Bruno said. “Lauren Prochaska did a good job on Adriana Hahn the first time we played Villanova. I thought it was important with our defensive focus to have Prochaska on Hahn and Brooke on Louin.”
Hahn is Villanova’s leading scorer at 14.1 ppg, She scored seven tonight on 2-7 from the field.
Prochaska leads DePaul in assists-per-minute at .142 and she had a game-high five assists to go along with zero turnovers tonight. She leads the Big East in assist/turnover ratio at 3.1.
January assisted on a Kelly Campbell three-pointer to push DePaul’s lead to 52-27 in the third quarter. DePaul’s Amarah Coleman followed with a three-point play, and DePaul held Nova scoreless for almost six minutes in the quarter.
DePaul shot 47.5 percent (29-61) for the game.
The Blue Demons’ Jacqui Grant had her fourth double-double in her last five games with 12 points and tied with her teammate, Tanita Allen, for game-high rebounds with 10.
The Blue Demons are now 14-4 versus the Wildcats and have won eight of the last nine meetings between the two teams. Villanova’s 50 points ties for second lowest by a DePaul opponent this season.
Villanova coach Harry Perretta and Bruno have combined for 1,396 wins at their respective schools. Perretta is ninth in Division I for all-time wins and Bruno is fifteenth.