Oregon State may be facing a DePaul team that pulled the “upset” against the Dallas Regional’s No. 3 seed in Louisville on Sunday, but the Beavers, the No. 2 seed, know they will have their hands full with the No. 6-seeded Blue Demons.
The teams will meet at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday in the Sweet 16 at American Airlines Center, the home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. The winner advances to the Elite Eight and will play the winner of No. 1 seed Baylor and No. 5 seed Florida State. Those teams tip at 1 p.m.
One name the Beavers (30-4), making their first Sweet 16 appearance since the tournament expanded to 64 teams, will be paying attention to is Jessica January. The Blue Demons’ third-leading scorer had a season-high 25 in Sunday’s win at Louisville to help DePaul advance to its third Sweet 16 since 2011.
January, a junior guard, had 18 points in the first half as the Blue Demons took the lead. Her free throw with 14.5 seconds left gave DePaul the win. She also had a team-high eight rebounds and added five assists.
But the Blue Demons have a balanced offensive attack as senior guard Chanise Jenkins leads them at 14.6 points per game while senior guard/forward Megan Podkowa chips in 14.0 and January 13.6. DePaul has six players averaging 7.8 points per game or more.
“That’s what makes them good,” assistant coach Jonas Chatterton said. “That’s the way they want to play. Everybody can score and everybody’s a threat so it becomes defending one on one because we can’t obviously help so much off one person. So everyone’s going to have to do their job, be elite defensively because they can all score.”
That provides a challenge for the Beavers, but one they relish.
“It makes it more difficult but I think those are fun teams to play against when everybody’s a threat,” junior guard Gabby Hanson said after Tuesday’s practice. “And certainly, any team that we do play we’ve never felt like this person is not a threat. We’re committed to stopping everybody, no matter who they are or what they can do. For us, such a defensive-minded team, it is a challenge but it’s not going to knock us off our game or anything.”
One thing in Oregon State’s favor may be that the Blue Demons play a similar type of offense as St. Bonaventure in that they will spread the floor and try to attack the basket when they can.
The Beavers held the Bonnies to 40 points in Sunday's 29-point second-round NCAA tournament win.
“It was a little bit of a different look for us on the defensive end so having that kind of experience then, and I think just giving us confidence knowing that we can defend that well against a five-out motion, absolutely (will help),” Hanson said.
“Obviously DePaul’s a very, very talented team so it’s going to take a lot of communicating on that end.”
Defense has been the key for the Beavers all season but since the start of the Pac-12 tournament and through last Sunday’s win, it has been at a different level.
“That’s what won us the tournament, honestly is our defense” Hanson said. “Going through these games, it’s become more and more evident it’s so important that we are dialed in on the defensive end. That’s what’s got us here to this point and there’s no lacking on that part.
“We feel very confident with our offense and all the weapons that we have but defensively it’s just something that we just continue to really harp on, especially this time of the season.”
DePaul (27-8) has defeated four top-25 teams and all have come on the road. The Blue Demons defeated Texas A&M 80-66, Northwestern 77-64 and Seton Hall 86-74 in addition to knocking off Louisville on Sunday.
Three of DePaul’s losses this season have come against No. 1 seeds in the tournament. The Blue Demons fell 86-72 at Baylor, 86-70 at home to Connecticut and 95-90 at Notre Dame.
They also defeated St. Bonaventure, 77-54, early in the season.
“They’ve played everybody and seen everything,” Chatterton said. “I think they’re as talented as anybody that we will have played. It’s like playing a big-time league game.”
Added Hanson: “They’re very talented. We’ll learn more about them as the week goes on. We respect them and it’s going to be a great game.”