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.

Loyola, Valpo showdown in a big game early in the MVC schedule

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USA TODAY

Loyola, Valpo showdown in a big game early in the MVC schedule

Loyola battles Valparaiso in a Missouri Valley Conference clash that airs on NBC Sports Chicago Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

The Ramblers (10-7, 3-1) are fighting for the top spot in the Valley with the Crusaders (11-6, 4-0) as the top two teams in the conference play an important early league game.

Coming off of an important home win over Illinois State on Saturday, the Ramblers are hoping to make another move by taking a crack at the Valley's only unbeaten team. Veterans Marques Townes, Clayton Custer and Cameron Krutwig are all having strong seasons for Loyola as the Ramblers attempt to position themselves for another potential NCAA tournament bid.

Valparaiso has put together a strong five-game winning streak, including a good road win at Southern Illinois over the weekend. The Crusaders have a balanced group of scorers, led by forward Ryan Fazekas, and center Derrik Smits -- the son of former Indiana Pacers center Rik Smits.

These two teams will also play on Feb. 10 as the Ramblers will make a trip to Valpo for the rematch. For now, this matchup could provide an indication of the team to beat in the Valley.

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

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USA TODAY

Northwestern mounts huge comeback, beats Utah in Holiday Bowl; Thorson, Fitzgerald heading to NFL next?

It was a tale of two halves for Northwestern in Monday's Holiday Bowl.

After entering halftime trailing Utah 20-3, Northwestern mounted a huge second half comeback to knock off the Utes 31-20. Northwestern, which outscored Utah 28-0 in the third quarter, finishes the 2018 season 9-5 record.

Northwestern was just 3-of-14 on third down, though they forced six Utah turnovers (two interceptions) highlighted by an 82-yard fumble return for a touchdown by safety/linebacker Jared McGee.

Six turnovers forced is the most by Northwestern since Oct. 3, 2009 against Purdue, when the Wildcats also forced six turnovers.

Senior quarterback Clayton Thorson — who tore his right ACL on Dec. 29, 2017 in the Music City Bowl — finished 21-of-30 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. However, Thorson exited the game late in the fourth quarter after going down awkwardly near Utah's sideline.

Thorson is one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. 

The win improves Northwestern's all-time bowl game record to 5-10. However, they have now three-straight bowl games; from the 1948-2012 seasons, they won two bowl games — the 1949 Rose Bowl and the 2013 Gator Bowl.

One of the biggest questions facing Northwestern is the future of head coach Pat Fitzgerald. According to a report, the Green Bay Packers are expected to request an interview with Fitzgerald for their head coaching vacancy.

Unlike Thorson, Fitzgerald leaving for the NFL is no guarantee. If he does leave, however, Fitzgerald would leave with the most all-time regular season wins (95) and bowl wins (4) in Northwestern history.

Fitzgerald's .576 winning percentage would also be best all-time by a Northwestern head coach, minimum five seasons. 

Fans likely will anxiously wait for news regarding Fitzgerald's future. Overall, though, fans should be appreciative of the job he has done into turning Northwestern into one of the better football programs in the Big Ten.

UPDATE: Here's what Fitzgerald said about his future after the game.