A small team got even smaller for DePaul women’s basketball Wednesday afternoon, and it was up to DePaul’s guards to pick up the pace.
Brittany Hrynko hit seven 3-pointers and had 28 points, Jessica January scored 23 and Chanise Jenkins added 12 as No. 25 DePaul earned a 92-76 victory over Butler in the first Big East game of season.
The Blue Demons (5-2) were without forward Megan Podkowa, who missed the game with a pulled hamstring. The lack of size challenged DePaul, who trailed 47-41 at halftime.
But guard play has been a specialty under head coach Doug Bruno, and Wednesday’s game was no exception.
“I thought Butler did a great job of pushing us in the first half, and then I thought our players did a great job of having to come back to have the adversity to overcome being down,” Bruno said. “I was really proud of the way our players didn’t get down on themselves.”
DePaul faced a deficit in the first half after a 13-0 over a span of three minutes put the Bulldogs ahead with a 30-24 lead. Butler (1-7) entered the game shooting just 35.7 percent, but finished the half shooting 61 percent. The Bulldogs also scored 47 points, and they were averaging 59.7 points per game.
For a moment, the Blue Demons were seemingly faced with the true threat of another loss. DePaul was coming off a double overtime loss Saturday against Northwestern.
Unlike the Northwestern game, however, Butler was a team that necessarily wasn’t a matchup problem. Beyond their 1-7 record, the Bulldogs are a team that are still finding their way under first year head coach Kurt Godlevske and with five new starters.
The Bulldogs were up for the challenge and all five starters finished in double figures, including forward Belle Obert leading her team with 16.
Yet as an experienced team, DePaul stayed calm and adjusted. The Blue Demons came out after halftime shooting 4-6 from the field and getting to the foul line twice. It sparked an 11-1 run, capped off by a pair of Hrynko threes.
Suddenly, it was like any other DePaul game — hit threes. Press. Force turnovers. Rinse. Repeat.
“I was open and just knocked shots down,” Hrynko, who tied her career mark for most 3-pointers in a game, said. “It wasn’t anything crazy or nothing. I just made shots.”
Bruno added that it’s amazing how easy the game is when players make their shots. Before Butler, DePaul uncharacteristically had been shooting only 30.8 percent from beyond the arc, down from the 35 percent from last season.
The Blue Demons shot 42 percent (14-33) from 3-point territory against Butler.
“Every game has a life of its own and so I tell (our players) that you don’t get nutty with four minutes here and four minutes there,” Bruno said. “You have to stay the course and then look at the big picture when the game is over.”
There was a new wrinkle in DePaul’s offense as well. January flashed the ability to post-up against Texas A&M, but her inside game was on full display against Butler. January went 8-12 from the field, including taking four trips to the foul line.
“Tonight, I had a mismatch the majority of the game so I was just trying to score layups,” January said. “I was trying to post up as much as I could.”
The lesson Bruno preached after the game was how his players will get better on the fly, balancing the limited practice time with the amount of games on DePaul’s schedule. In the meantime, DePaul will continue to try and find a greater inside presence along with a steady rotation.
The Blue Demons will face perhaps their biggest test of the season in exactly one week when No. 2 Notre Dame comes into town for a showdown at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
In the meantime, DePaul will have their first road game Sunday at 2 p.m. against Chicago State, a team Bruno said they can’t overlook.
“I’m really excited for this ball club, but at the same time, we have a lot to get better at,” Bruno said. “We have to play well against Chicago State and we’ll have to start putting the pieces together.”