Home Illustration DePaul Women’s Basketball: What Makes Her Offensive Elite

DePaul Women’s Basketball: What Makes Her Offensive Elite

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When Doug Bruno started coaching DePaul 36 years ago, he had two goals in mind: make a Final Four and entertain people with women’s hoops.

While he and the Blue Demons are still working toward that first goal, they achieved the second this season thanks to Bruno’s progressive offensive philosophy, referred to on the program as “America’s greenest go-ahead.”

“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games, and defense and rebounding win championships,” he says, referring to Pat Summitt’s famous quote. “Yeah, the ultimate goal is to win championships, but we’re always trying to get people to watch women play basketball. … If you’re going to play a slow[ed] low, half court, robotic basketball style, it’s hard to watch when it’s the Warriors taking on the Lakers.

DePaul guard Darrione Rogers shoots against UConn.

Bruno leads an offense that has ranked among the top 10 nationally in scoring every season since 2013, averaging 82.7 points in the last eight. But this year, no other program has come close to DePaul’s offensive output, as he leads the nation with 90.2 points per game. With second-place Oklahoma averaging four points less, the Blue Demons offense set the example, elevating them to second place in the Grand East behind only No. 8 UConn – against whom they have lost by two points last month and will face again on Friday night.

DePaul has been a national name in women’s basketball ever since Bruno took over. He led the Blue Demons to 17 consecutive tournament appearances between 2003 and 2019, a feat matched only by Connecticut, Stanford and Tennessee. However, the historic streak came to an end last season and DePaul still hasn’t made it past the Sweet 16.

The team hopes this season’s attack can make the difference. DePaul Ball, as they like to call him, comes down to four key factors: three-point shooting, transition, half-court attack and rebounding. It hasn’t changed much from year to year as Bruno’s system doesn’t have to and can instead use the team’s strengths for this season. It just so happens that this year, his players are excelling in all four areas.

Since adopting the three-point line in the 1980s, DePaul has been known for his success beyond the arc, and this season has been no different.

“You can’t have true offensive ground spacing if you don’t have five people who can make a three,” says Bruno.

DePaul ranks fifth nationally in three-point attempts (620) and makes (219) and shoots them to a 35.3% clip. Senior guard Lexi Held makes up more than a quarter of her team’s three, or 44% on the year.

While three-ball has been crucial in spreading the court, Bruno says his philosophy emphasizes getting to the edge for the highest shooting percentage, which often comes in transition.

“Spacing exists to get the ball to the edge, but the best basketball will always be a layup,” says Bruno. “What I’m trying to figure out is how do you score the highest point rate per possession. You score the highest point rate for possession in open court, not half court.

The Blue Demons are averaging 21.7 points per game in transition, a quarter of their total production. Six times this season they have scored more than 30 break points. However, the rest of their points come in the half court, so Bruno says his team needs to run there as well.

While leading the nation in scoring is the brightest statistic, the team’s goal each year is to rank first in assists, which they’ve done with 496 so far this season.

“I really believe that the essence of basketball is to share and serve your teammates,” says Bruno. “Every pass to a teammate is a service draft in the game.”

“We have a lot of freedom,” adds Held. “The only rule we have is film it or share it. Other than that, he trusts us to play our game and make decisions. And we don’t have set pieces that we execute every times in the field.

This stems from Bruno’s idea of ​​”positionless basketball”, in which every player on the court can play in any position. Freshman forward Aneesah Morrow, senior guard Sonya Morris and Held all said that ideology played a big role in their decision to pick DePaul, as well as the green light the coach gives those on the fence. ground. Because of the philosophy, his five starters are averaging double digits, with seven players averaging six or more points per game.

“You can film it from anywhere. You can drive it from anywhere. It’s not trying to limit your game at all,” Morrow says.

DePaul coach Doug Bruno talks to goaltender Darrione Rogers

Bruno is in his 35th season as coach of the Blue Demons.

Positionless basketball leads to a better sense of camaraderie on the court, where no player takes advantage of an opportunity over another – instead, they are equals. This allows for a high sense of sharing, which can come in the form of assists or even rebounds.

“One simple thing he says is every shot is a pass,” Morrow says. “I consider every shot from my teammates or the opponent as a pass for me.”

Bruno and his players believe the rebound has been the differentiator for them this season. The catalyst for that change was Morrow, who made an immediate impact in his freshman year, leading the nation in total rebounds, rebounds per game, offensive rebounds per game, and double-doubles.

“It basically acts in a cleaning role,” says Bruno. “She’s not coming here as the new No. 1 chef. She comes here and cleans the kitchen. So she doesn’t harm or take anything from what other players are doing. She helps them do what they do.

“That offensive rebound factor does a lot because it also frees up the shooter’s psyche,” he adds. “They don’t have to have so much pressure on them. That pressure to make a shot becomes lessened when they know they have someone backing them up to get an offensive rebound.

In his first 25 college games, Morrow averaged 20.1 points and 13.3 rebounds, recording 20 double-doubles on the year and 17 straight. She has won 11 consecutive Big East Weekly Awards, including Freshman of the Week every week but the last.

The combination of three-point shooting, picking up the pace, positionless half-court play and rebounding from one of the best freshmen in the nation has taken DePaul to new offensive heights. this season.

“The coach always says the attack will work if the players make the attack work,” Morris said. “If they take an option from us, we’ll have another option because that’s how attacking is and we as individual players. We have the skills, talents and abilities to adapt to the defense or what the defense took from us.

The offensive recipe may be fixed, but in defense, DePaul still has room for improvement. The Blue Demons are giving up 75.8 points per game, which ranks them 343rd out of 356 Division I teams.

“We are trying to defend you. We are trying to stop you,” says Bruno. “But because we give the ball back to you more often and because we shoot it quickly ourselves, it’s harder to defend when you play the way we play because you’re in defense more often.”

But the Blue Demons refuse to use their high-speed attack as an excuse to slack off on the other end.

“Since we are a team that averages the most possessions in the country, it is easy for us to take away some possessions [on defense] because we know we will have the ball again,” Held said. “I think the most important thing for us is to just focus on defending every possession. … I think we can be a really strong defensive team if we value it as much as every other aspect of our game.”

With March just weeks away, the NCAA Tournament is approaching – a place Bruno has been to many times before. He and his players know this year’s team has the talent to make a run for it, but to go all the way they’re going to have to let their offense do its job and focus their attention on the other end of the pitch.

“The beauty of the tournament is the drama of how close each game is,” says Bruno. “You better be able to make saves, and you better be able to rebound, and you better be able to run both sides of the basketball to survive.”

Reaching the Final Four still remains one of Bruno’s career goals and improving defense may be key to helping his team get there, but that won’t stop him from continuing to bring the sport attention. that he deserves.

“These women are playing great basketball,” says Bruno. “But it’s hard to get people to watch them play basketball. … Selling tickets to watch women play basketball is important. It’s not a higher priority than winning games or championships, but it’s still a priority.

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