BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- The Marist winning streak is intact thanks to Rachele Fitz and Julianne Viani.
Fitz scored 23 points and Marist closed the game with a 32-2 run to beat DePaul 76-57 in the first round of the NCAA tournament Saturday night. The Red Foxes will face LSU in the second round.Viani had 16 of her 18 points in the second half for seventh-seeded Marist (32-2), which has won 23 straight games. The Red Foxes' last loss was Dec. 12.Meg Dahlman had 11 rebounds for Marist and Elise Caron had five assists.Allie Quigley led DePaul with 15 points. Deirdre Naughton added 13."Being down 13 didn't look very good, but obviously Julianne shot us back into it, and Rachele just kept doing her thing that made her a MAAC player of the year," Marist coach Brian Giorgis said.The 10th-seeded Blue Demons (20-12) were leading 55-44 midway through the second half when Marist took over.DePaul, which was averaging 78.4 points a game this season, shot only 34.7 percent from the field. Marist, meanwhile, shot 46.7 percent, including going 8-for-19 from 3-point range.The score was tied five times in the first half, with the lead changing seven times before DePaul, with a strong inside game, took a 37-31 halftime lead."We had trouble in the first half rebounding," Giorgis said. "But I think we outrebounded them in the second half. We just persevered."DePaul opened the second half with a 7-4 run to stretch the lead to 46-35 with 16:57 remaining.Marist was tougher, smarter and better than we were," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "I think the nation understands how good they are now."Marist retook the lead on four straight 3-pointers Viani to make it 58-55 with 8:51 left."I was feeling pretty confident," Viani said. "I missed a couple in the first half. But I had to remember my team needed me. I was getting open looks."The Blue Demons made only one basket during the last 7:24."It was a battle the whole time," Fitz said. "They're extremely strong and aggressive post players, and we knew that coming in."Coach commented in the locker room at halftime that we really do need to step up our game and stop worrying about fouls and just go hard to offensive and defensive boards, and I feel that we really stepped up the second half."