It was not always pretty, but the DePaul women’s basketball team cruised to a 68-46 victory over Northern Illinois at McGrath-Phillips Arena Saturday with a strong second half.
The Blue Demons (8-3) went into halftime with a 28-18 lead. However their first half play was sloppy, committing 12 turnovers and shooting only 36.4 percent from the field.
In the second half, DePaul shot 58.6 percent (17-29) and committed only five turnovers to build a commanding lead. Led by Chanise Jenkins, Anna Martin and Jasmine Penny, DePaul executed well in transition and dominated inside the paint.
“I think we’re so used to scoring so fast and they were doing a great job of taking all that away,” said Martin. “We just had to settle down a little bit.”
Penny had 20 points (7-9 FG) and five rebounds to establish a presence in the post. Center Katherine Harry also grabbed 13 rebounds to give DePaul a 42-32 rebounding edge. The Blue Demons also scored 34 points in the paint.
Guard play was strong as well. Jenkins played 36 minutes and scored a career high 14 points -including four threes – to give DePaul a needed boost in the second half. Martin contributed 17 points and Brittany Hrynko chipped in eight assists.
“It’s really exciting to play with Anna (Martin) and Britt (Hrynko),” said Jenkins. “They’re very smart, competitive and fast guards. It’s like we have a mental connection together. It doesn’t matter who’s doing what as long as we’re on the same page.”
Defense played a significant role in sealing the victory for DePaul. Northern Illinois shot just 30.4 percent from the field in the second half, 27.3 percent for the game.
“I asked our team to try and hold them to 33 percent field-goal percentage, and I’m pleased about that,” said head coach Doug Bruno. “Northern Illinois forces you to grind out the game. It took a long time to get control.”
“We knew we had to get better defensively,” said Martin. “When we do that, we can be really good. Tonight is a start.”
NIU’s Amana Corral led the Huskies in scoring with 15 points. She was the only one on her team to reach double-digits.
NIU also shot the ball better from the free throw line, shooting 70 percent (14-20) compared to DePaul’s 58 percent (11-19). Afterwards, Bruno cited limiting opponents’ appearances at the line as an area to improve going forward.
“We were fouling too much,” said Bruno. “Defense is not fouling. You can’t put them on the line as much as we did.
“I thought our energy was good and we were ready to play, but I didn’t think our focus was good,” said Bruno. “We’re still very much a work in progress.”
Still, with strong guard play and an improving post presence, Bruno said his team is starting to find its identity.
“As we get to the end of December, it’s good we have things to get better at,” said Bruno. “If we can get better, I really think we can grow this into a good basketball team.”
DePaul was down to only seven active players due to various injuries.
Jasmine Penny had her second 20-point game of the season and the sixth of her career.
DePaul has won its 17th straight game against NIU.
Kelsey Smith added eight points and nine rebounds off the bench for the strongest statistical game of her career.