- Associated Press - Saturday, January 29, 2011

Doug Bruno has a simple reason for DePaul’s incredible start to the season _ experience.

The Blue Demons have a quartet of “super” seniors. Sam Quigley, Felicia Chester, China Threatt have been at DePaul for five years. Deirdre Naughton was granted a rare sixth-year of eligibility this past season.

Quigley, Threatt and Naughton have all torn their ACLs at some point during their careers. Chester had a stress fracture in her foot as a freshman.

“Those guys have been here a long time and provide great leadership,” Bruno said. “We’ve had to pay the price to get these seniors. We’ve had to play the last few seasons without one or more of them, and its nice to have them all at once.”

Being together for so long has certainly paid off.The Blue Demons have matched the best start in school history with a 20-2 mark, which includes a 20-point win over then-No. 3 Stanford. They have won seven straight and sit at 7-0 in the Big East conference for the first time in school history.

“It helps with knowing where each other is going and what one person is going to do,” Quigley said. “You play with people so long, and you just get comfortable with how they play. It’s nice to know everyone knows how the system works. Everyone is on the same page.”

DePaul has a daunting schedule left, beginning with a home game against No. 8 West Virginia (19-2, 5-2) on Sunday before heading to Storrs for a showdown with second-ranked Connecticut (20-1, 9-0) on Saturday.

Bruno knows the game against the Mountaineers, who are coming off a loss at Georgetown, will be a good test for his squad.

“No question about that,” he said. “West Virginia schooled us a year ago in the Big East tournament and its basically the same 10 players on the floor. So its going to be a great measuring stick as to how much better we’ve gotten and how much better we still have to get.”

Still, there are a lot of games left to be played in the conference.

“We’re approaching this in the sense that they aren’t make or break games but they certainly are make and take games,” Bruno said. “I mean that for all three of us, they aren’t make and take for all of us.”

The Blue Demons have already passed one test, shocking Stanford back in December. The Cardinal blew them out last season in California.

“I think it helped with our confidence a lot,” Bruno said. “They are a great team. They’re big, they’re athletic, they’re just good. And I think we played a great game.”

DePaul will need that confidence to get beyond the first round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, when they finished a school-best third in the conference.

“We’re all on the same page. We all have one goal,” said Keisha Hampton, DePaul’s leading scorer at 15.6 points per game.

Besides his team’s success on the court, it’s been a great year for Bruno. Joining Pat Summitt at Tennessee and Kay Yow at North Carolina State, he became just the third Division I women’s basketball coach to have a court named after him.

He also helped guide the U.S. women’s national basketball team to a gold medal at the World Championship as an assistant coach to Geno Auriemma in September.

Even though he’s been coaching the DePaul women for 25 years, Bruno gained valuable experience working with his friend Auriemma.

“What you learn is not necessarily the tangible X’s and O’s, but what you learn is just his ability to lead and make players accountable in a positive way,” Bruno said. “There’s a drill here and there but its more about just the overall management of a team that I learn the most about.”

Auriemma has been impressed by DePaul’s play so far.

“I think people were so fixated on us and Notre Dame and West Virginia and St. John’s and Georgetown that people forgot. They forgot how good they are,” he said. “This game is about having really, really good upperclassmen and they’ve got really good upperclassmen.”

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