The No. 1 team in the Big East women’s basketball preseason rankings encounters the last-place team in the poll on Tuesday night, but both have proven that those rankings don’t mean all that much.
Tony Bozzella’s Pirates come off their first road win, while also notching their first Big East win in a 64-56 victory over Villanova on Saturday.
Junior point guard Ka-Deidre Simmons scored a career-high 25 points along with six assists to earn herself the Big East Player of the Week award. While The Hall took down the Wildcats for the first time since 2010, the blue and white will face a DePaul team that hasn’t lost to the Pirates since 1999.
Winners of seven of nine, DePaul comes in having never lost in South Orange. The Blue Demons lead the series, 8-1, and come inside Walsh Gymnasium on Tuesday hungry for a victory after a 96-86 loss to St. John’s on Saturday.
When looking at the Blue Demons, it all starts with senior forward Jasmine Penny. The veteran can do it all, averaging 24.8 points per game in conference play. Penny has not been stopped in four conference games, as the senior is shooting 71 percent from the floor.
With the way the forward runs the floor, transition defense is going to be crucial for the Pirates. Sophomore guard Chanise Jenkins bolsters the backcourt averaging 14.3 points per game on the season.
Last season, the Blue Demons dominated the Pirates, 74-48, but a new offense installed by Bozzella is giving The Hall more scoring options. SHU’s attack is averaging over 72 points per game on the season, as the Pirates have not scored fewer than 63 points in the 2013-14 campaign.
Along with Simmons, another player to watch is sophomore forward Bra’Shey Ali. Her 10 points were solid, but a 16-rebound performance was critical for the Pirates in putting the Wildcats away on Saturday. For a team that had been outrebounded by a margin of -6.0 in three straight games before Saturday, a 44-32 advantage on the glass was big for the Pirates.
Sophomore forward Tabatha Richardson-Smith only made one field goal on Saturday, but a two-point night for the second-year player isn’t going to cut it against a balanced, talented DePaul squad.
Even with just a two-point performance on Saturday, Richardson-Smith still is averaging over 18 points per game on the season. DePaul surrendered 96 to St. John’s on Saturday. Open looks will be out there against a struggling Blue Demons defense.
The Hall is second in the Big East with 47.4 rebounds per game, as hustle could be very important against the Blue Demons, who trailed by as many as 16 to the Red Storm A pressuring defense from the Pirates will be the match-up to watch against the fast-paced DePaul attack.
Controlling Jasmine Penny is easier said than done, but if the Pirates allow her to set the tone, there’s no telling what the senior can do. Last year, she scored 29 on 12-of-15 shooting against the Pirates. Look for The Hall to possibly double-team Penny and do as much as possible to fluster one of the Big East’s best scorers.
The Pirates and Blue Demons tip off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, as the Pirates eye their 10th home win of the season and a shot to get back at .500 in conference action.
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John Fanta can be reached at email@example.com.