It was a night for remembering Ray Meyer. And DePaul's women's team did it the best way possible -- with an easy 68-43 victory over Liberty in the NCAA tournament Saturday night.
A moment of silence in memory of Meyer, who died Friday at age 92, was held just before the National Anthem was played. The small but spirited crowd at the Allstate Arena then broke into applause with one fan holding up a smiley face with a gap-toothed grin -- just like Meyer -- and "Coach" on the sign.
Meyer coached the men's teams for 42 years at the school and one of his players was Bruno, now in his 20th season as DePaul's women's coach.
"It's hard to put into words. I've lost my sister and you go through these emotions -- you cry, you laugh, you remember the good times," Bruno said. "You just think about how much coach meant to all of us."
Meyer even touched the team Bruno now coaches.
"Our players knew coach. He made himself available to these youngsters and they got to know him," Bruno said.
"I said to the players before the game, `If coach is talking to you from heaven, he'd say to you, `Don't win this one for me, win it for yourself."'
Khara Smith scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds Saturday night. And Bruno's Blue Demons (26-6) now advance to a Monday game against North Carolina State or Tulsa in the San Antonio Regional.
"We just know everything he meant to DePaul's program and this school as a whole," DePaul guard Allie Quigley said of Meyer. "We just know what he would've wanted us to do, we thought about that also. We had him in mind during the game."
Meyer would have wanted an all-out effort and that's what DePaul produced Saturday night.
A year ago, Liberty beat DePaul 88-79 in the NCAA's second round, but lost five seniors, including 6-foot-8 Katie Feenstra, who had 29 points and 13 rebounds in that victory before moving on to the WNBA.
Liberty also lost this season's leading scorer and rebounder, Megan Frazee, to a knee injury in January. And this time, the Flames were no match for DePaul, especially on the boards where the Blue Demons had a 47-26 advantage. Liberty held a rebounding margin of 11.7 against its opponents this season, but got beat at its own game.
"Call it manhandled," Liberty coach Carey Green said. "You could call it a learning curve, a lesson. You don't want to use youth an excuse. We would have liked to have Megan out there, but there were other things we needed."
The 6-foot-2 Smith, the daughter of former NBA player Ken Norman, was a force on the inside from the outset. She had four baskets, getting open easily, and Quigley hit a 3-pointer in a 12-0 run that pushed the Blue Demons into a 21-5 lead eight minutes into the game.
"It was very important coming into the game knowing they were a top rebounding team in the nation," Smith said.
"We just wanted to focus on that and get after the glass, on the offensive side as well as the defensive side. That was a key."
Smith finished the half with 16 points and nine rebounds and started several fastbreaks with one-handed outlet passes to Quigley behind the Flames' defense.
Liberty (25-6), a 13th seed for a second straight season and making its 10th straight NCAA tournament appearance, went scoreless for nearly six minutes during DePaul's early surge. The Flames finished the first half shooting just 25 percent and trailed 41-22 by the intermission.
Quigley added 13 points and Jenna Rubino 12 for DePaul, which emptied its bench halfway through the second half. Moriah Frazee led Liberty with 11 points.
Fourth-seeded DePaul was playing to a home crowd, even if the Blue Demons weren't technically on their home floor. The Allstate Arena is 15 miles from their campus gym and most of the crowd was pulling for the Blue Demons.
And the Blue Demons looked comfortable, hitting 54 percent of their shots in the first half to build the comfortable lead.
Game Notes: DePaul - DePaul's players wore black ribbons on their uniforms in memory of Coach Ray Meyer, who died yesterday at age 92... the Blue Demons are now 6-10 all time in the NCAA Tournament and have reached the second round for the third straight season... Liberty's 43 points were the least ever scored against DePaul in a tournament game... the previous low was 46 by George Washington in 2004... Caprice Smith made just her second career start... Khara Smith is now 30-of-32 from the free throw line in her last six games... she recorded her 75th career double-double and 21st of the season... 13 rebounds are tied for the most in team NCAA history, equaling her mark and Erin Carney's from last season... DePaul is now 21-4 all-time in the Allstate Arena... it was the team's third NCAA Tournament game in the Chicago area... the first two were played at Alumni Hall... the Blue Demons have now made a 3-pointer in 40 straight games... DePaul's 26 wins are tied for second-most in school history, behind the 27 in 1987-88... the series with Liberty is now tied at 1-1... both meetings have occured in the NCAA Tournament. Liberty - Liberty, the nation's leader in rebounding margin at 11.7, was outrebounded by DePaul, 47-26... the 26 boards marked a team-season low, breaking the previous mark of 29 set against Florida on Dec. 29, 2005... the Flames have lost all four games this season in which it has been outrebounded by its opponent... in the last two seasons, Liberty has been outrebounded just eight times... Liberty went to the free throw line 12 times on Saturday night, marking the second fewest charity tosses for the Flames this season. Liberty attempted just five free throws against Florida on Dec 29, 2005... the 43 points marked the lowest scoring output for the Flames in 12 total NCAA Tournament contests... the loss snaps Liberty's 14-game winning streak, which was the 7th longest in the nation... the Flames shot 29.6% (16-for-54) from the field, their second-lowest shooting percentage of the season... their lowest was an 18.9% (10-for-53) performance against North Carolina on Nov. 21, 2005... two-thirds of the Frazee triplets, Moriah (11 points) and Molly (10 points) accounted for 21 of the Flames' 43 points.
Official Box Score
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