DePaul recovers in 2nd half, set to face Notre Dame women

Isaac Lorton
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — No. 9 DePaul exorcised its first-half demons and rallied to overcome No. 9 Minnesota, 79-72, in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday at Notre Dame's Purcell Pavilion.

“At halftime I really thought — as crazy as this sounds — they heard me say that we were in a good place,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said of the 41-30 halftime deficit. “I thought Minnesota was exhausted. We were chasing 11, we had given up at least 10 or 11 free throws, which was part of the game plan not to do, we left layups on the table in the first half, we shot 2-20 with good looks from 3, which you’re going to get against that very good defense. But it’s a matchup zone and we weren’t knocking them down. I just told them lets fix the things we can fix.”

The Blue Demons came into the game hitting 10.5 3-pointers per game, second best in the county, but missed their first 10 3-point attempts and didn’t hit a deep ball until 11:43 remained.

The Golden Gophers created the lead despite 12 first-half turnovers and stretched their lead to 49-34 in the second half.

“We came out in the second half as flat as can be,” Bruno said. “Finally the pressure kicked. I thought the pressure really kicked in. I thought the offensive execution in the second half was excellent, sharing the basketball, finally start knocking some threes down.”

Senior Blue Demons guard Megan Podkowa sparked DePaul with two consecutive 3-point baskets at 15:01 and 14:23 to cap off a 17-2 run to tie the game at 51-51. Podkowa finished with 23 points.

“I think we all know that we can hit shots and we will hit shots, and the coaches did a good job at halftime telling us that we've just got to keep getting open looks because they were so wide open,” Podkowa said.

From 15:01 to 9:23, DePaul went 9-of-10 from the field and 4-for-5 from the arc to complete a 22-4 run and take a 56-53 lead.

DePaul worked the mid-range jumpers and cuts down low, while being selective from the perimeter. The Blue Demons attempted 14 from long range and buried six of them. They were also able to slow down Minnesota’s All-American junior center Amanda Zahui B. Zahui B. finished with 21 points and 22 boards.

DePaul junior guard Chanise Jenkins' 3-point basket sent the Demons up 70-63 with 2:53 remaining and seemed to take the air out of the Golden Gophers. Jenkins finished with 16 points.

“We are never going to give up in games like this,” Jenkins said. “Even though Minnesota is a very good team, we know how good are. We knew that we had to buckle down and refocus.''

The second half proved to be too much for the shallow lineup of the Gophers. Minnesota coughed up the ball 28 times. The Blue Demons relentless pressure appeared to wear out the Gophers and it eventually paid off.

“I thought (the Blue Demons) played exceptional, particularly in the second half,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said. “We knew they were a team that was going to defend at a very high level for 40 minutes. I thought they hit a few threes there and we got a little rattled in terms of handling the ball. Obviously the difference in the game is us having 28 turnovers and them getting hot at the 3-point line.”

The Blue Demons are second in the country for both steals (12.4 steals per game) and turnover margin (+10.8), and are third in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6). They had 14 steals Friday and 25 of their points came off of turnovers.

With six assists Friday, senior guard Brittany Hrynko set a DePaul record for assists with 676. She also got her 303rd career steal.

DEPAUL (27-7): Hrynko 3-16 4-4 10, Jenkins 6-12 1-2 16, January 1-10 0-0 2, McGee 2-3 0-0 4, Podkowa 8-15 4-5 23, Millender 3-5 0-0 7, Schulte 5-8 2-2 13, Grays 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 29-72 13-15 79.

MINNESOTA (23-10): Mullaney 3-8 5-7 11, Kelley 7-12 2-2 17, Bailey 1-6 0-0 3, Zahui B. 7-11 7-8 21, Wagner 5-8 1-2 14, McDaniel 3-6 0-0 6, Hirt 0-1 0-0 0, Hedstrom 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 15-19 72.

Halftime: Minnesota 41-30. 3-Point Goals--DePaul 8-34 (Jenkins 3-6, Podkowa 3-8, Millender 1-3, Schulte 1-3, McGee 0-1, Grays 0-1, January 0-5, Hrynko 0-7), Minnesota 5-15 (Wagner 3-6, Kelley 1-1, Bailey 1-5, Mullaney 0-1, Zahui B. 0-2). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--DePaul 30 (Jenkins 7), Minnesota 44 (Zahui B. 22). Assists--DePaul 20 (Hrynko 6), Minnesota 15 (Mullaney 8). Total Fouls: DePaul 16, Minnesota 15. A: NA.

Minnesota guard Shayne Mullaney (3) dives near DePaul guard Brittany Hrynko during DePaul's 79-72 NCAA Tourney win Friday at Purcell Pavilion. (AP Photo/JOE RAYMOND)