NCAA Talk

DePaul women get past Northern Iowa in tourney opener

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AP

DePaul women get past Northern Iowa in tourney opener

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — DePaul's Tanita Allen snagged a loose ball under the basket, but then lost her balance, awkwardly flipping the ball toward the rim as she was falling down and being fouled.

Somehow, it bounced a few times on the rim and went through the hoop.

It was that kind of charmed game for the Blue Demons — especially Allen.

The Blue Demons' sophomore scored 25 points — including hitting her first five 3-pointers — Lauren Prochaska and Brooke Schulte each added 12 and DePaul cruised past Northern Iowa 88-67 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"She's capable of this kind of game," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said of Allen. "She's a really quality shooter and was ready to let it rip."

Seventh-seeded DePaul (27-7) kept up a torrid scoring pace despite fairly quiet games from Schulte and Jessica January, the team's two leading scorers. Instead, it was Allen and Prochaska who were often the go-to options.

"It was just the way the game evolved," said Prochaska, who had a team-high six assists. "No one on the team is an 'I' player who looks for their own stats."

Allen, a 5-foot-10 guard who was the Big East Sixth Woman of the Year, came off the bench and hit her first six shots, including five 3-pointers to push the Blue Demons ahead early. She finished 9 of 11 from the field, including 5 of 6 from 3-point range.

"I just seemed to have a lot of open shots," Allen said. "And I knocked them down."

Allen said she had been struggling lately, but a pregame pep talk from her dad included the advice of "just shoot, don't really think about it." Bruno, after hearing Allen's explanation, shook his head and said he's been saying the same thing for weeks.

"You needed your father to tell you that?" Bruno said laughing.

Northern Iowa (24-9) took a 3-0 lead in the opening minute on Mikaela Morgan's 3-pointer, but that was pretty much the end of the good news for the Panthers. DePaul's fast-paced offense continually caught 10th-seeded Northern Iowa out of position and the Blue Demons shot 61 percent in the first half (20 of 33) on the way to a 51-33 halftime lead.

"What Allen did — my goodness — you've got to give her credit," Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren said. "To go 9 of 11 and 5 of 6 from the 3? 25 points off the bench? That's incredible. She was in a zone."

Northern Iowa was led by Madison Weekly, who scored 21 points. Megan Maahs added 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting from the field.

"Every time we seemed to get a few shots going in a row, they always came back and hit a big shot," Weekly said.

UP NEXT:

DePaul will play in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday against No. 2 seed and host Mississippi State.

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

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AP

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The Rivals.com four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

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USA TODAY

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."