CHICAGO (AP)DePaul wasn’t going to let its second shot at a top 10 team end the way its first did.
Sonya Morris scored 23 points and Deja Church added 18 to help No. 24 DePaul top ninth-ranked Kentucky 86-82 on Wednesday.
Both Morris and Church made a pair of free throws in the final 25 seconds to seal the Blue Demons’ second straight victory and erase memories of a lopsided loss to No. 2 Louisville two weeks ago.
”We knew that was not going to happen again, ever,” Church said.
The Blue Demons (3-2) opened the fourth quarter with a 59-53 lead and made nine of their first 10 field-goal tries to keep the Wildcats at bay.
”We said it was a 0-0 game,” Church said. ”We just played hard.
”We had confidence in our shots and I think we gave each other confidence when they went in.”
She added the experience of falling 116-75 to Louisville on Dec. 4 helped keep the Blue Demons focused as Kentucky never fell behind by more than two possessions in the final five minutes.
Chastity Patterson had 22 points to lead Kentucky (6-1), which was seeking its first win since administrators made Kyra Elzy the full-time head coach.
The Wildcats ended a turnover-filled first half — there were 25 in all between the teams — with a 37-35 lead thanks to Rhyne Howard’s layup off a steal in the closing seconds.
DePaul took the lead for good midway through the third quarter with an 8-0 run that featured a pair of Church baskets.
Kentucky got a dominant performance from center Dre’una Edwards, who finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.
”We threw the kitchen sink at her,” Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno said after the sophomore helped the Wildcats amass a 20-6 advantage on the offensive glass. ”We tried to swarm and surround her.
”I tried to tell the players she’s like Charles Barkley when she’s at her best; but none of the players saw Barkley play. So I had to use Zion (Williamson) instead.”
Howard also finished with 18 points.
Kentucky: Howard was a unanimous first-team preseason All-America nominee, but Edwards also will have a big say in the Wildcats’ fortunes this season. The 6-foot-2 sophomore had five offensive rebounds and might have a bigger problem for DePaul if not for a handful of missed shots near the basket.
”There were times when I was definitely rushing,” she said after going 9 for 17 from the floor. ”They’re not as big as me so I was definitely rushing sometimes.”
DePaul: The Blue Demons ended their preseason 1-2 against ranked opponents but have to like ending the slate on a high note. Securing a third straight Big East title will be a tall task now that Connecticut has joined the conference, so DePaul will take every confidence booster it can find.
Kentucky: The loss likely means Kentucky’s first stay in the top 10 since the 2015-16 season will be a brief one.
DePaul: The Blue Demons will remain in the top 25 and could inch higher if they complete the week without a loss.
The victory was Bruno’s 725th at DePaul and moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Ray Meyer for the most wins by a basketball coach at the university. Bruno, who played under Meyer before beginning his coaching career, said he hardly thought he surpassed his mentor.
”I don’t look at it as breaking Coach Meyer’s record,” he said. ”This is just really about the players winning all the games. I’ve just been blessed to have some great players throughout the years. This is really about all of them.”
Elzy was named interim head coach last month after longtime coach Matthew Mitchell retired for health reasons. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart made the job permanent Monday.
Elzy, a member of the coaching staff for nine years, signed a contract that runs through the 2025-26 season.
Kentucky: Hosts Wofford on Friday for its final tuneup before the Southeastern Conference schedule begins.
DePaul: Opens Big East play Friday against visiting Georgetown.