UPDATED: DePaul women’s basketball now Big East champions after knocking off St. John’s 65-57

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ROSEMONT, Ill. – All season long, opponents of DePaul women’s basketball have found that any of the Blue Demons’ five starters have the potential to take the game over.

In the Big East tournament, forwards Megan Podkowa and Megan Rogowski led the team in a blowout against Georgetown.  The next day, guard Chanise Jenkins and forward Jasmine Penny starred against rival Marquette. Four of the five DePaul starters had great games to lead the Blue Demons into the finals.

On Tuesday, it was Brittany Hrynko’s turn to shine.

“I just came out ready to play,” Hrynko said. “Coach always talks about making simple plays and I had to attack the basket. Once I got there, I just had to be patient.”

Hrynko scored 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and three other Blue Demons finished in double figures as No. 23 DePaul knocked off St. John’s 65-57 at Allstate Arena for the women’s Big East Championship.

Megan Rogowski scored 14 points, Megan Podkowa finished with 12 and Jasmine Penny added 11 to help DePaul earn the school’s first conference title since 1993 when they were a part of the Great Midwest Conference.

“These players are special,” DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said. “Everybody just gave us a great season to this point. It’s all really about them. Winning three in a row (in three days) is really hard to do, especially with the style we play.”

DePaul (27-6) jumped out to an 11-4 lead, but St. John’s would battle back. The Red Storm forced eight first half turnovers and led 18-17 with 8:52 left. 

The Red Storm (22-10) went 4-6 from the 3-point line in the first half to keep the game close. DePaul retook the lead off a Rogowski layup with 37 seconds left, going ahead 30-29 into halftime.

In the second half, the Blue Demons were able to establish the high-octane offense they have played at throughout the season. DePaul led 49-42 with 9:57 left.

Every time the Blue Demons extended the lead to seven, however, the Red Storm came right back. They trailed 57-53 after guard Keylantra Landry hit a 3-pointer with 2:45 left.

St. John’s forward Aliyyah Handford led her team with 13 points. She struggled, though, going 5-15 from the field and committing five turnovers.

As the pace slowed, the Blue Demons kept calm and executed under pressure. Hrynko would find Penny and Podkowa to cool St. John’s surge. Hrynko finished with six assists. Penny and Podkowa were a major factor in DePaul outscoring St. John’s 38-20 in the paint.

Bruno was impressed with both forwards throughout the game. Podkowa nearly posted a double double, securing the game with nine rebounds.

“Podkowa has been a silent player that has gone about her business,” Bruno said. “We needed her to step up and score. She did a nice job of exploiting a mismatch she had tonight.”

DePaul clinched the game in the final minute, making free throws. Jenkins hit two free throws to give DePaul their largest lead of eight to end the game.

“If you told me we would have held them to 65 points and make eight 3’s and lost, I probably would have told you different,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “We didn’t make enough plays, but I’m still so happy for these young ladies.

“Our season is not over,” Tartamella added, mentioning his team’s chances at an NCAA tournament birth.

DePaul shot 14-17 from the free throw line, 5-6 in the last minute. They shot 41 percent from the field (25-58) and held St. John’s to 40 percent (22-25). The Blue Demons outrebounded St. John’s, 39-33.

Hrynko was named to the all-tournament team afterwards. Penny was voted the tournament’s MVP.

“I’m really happy for my team,” Penny said. “(Winning the Big East tournament) was one of our goals we set at the beginning of the year. To see ourselves work so hard and accomplish it was amazing.”

This was the first year in the new Big East, where the college basketball centric schools separated from the programs that had college football.  UConn and Notre Dame previously dominated the Big East before departing.

DePaul secured a 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, something even more important to Bruno than a conference tournament.

“I didn’t even realize we hadn’t won a conference tournament since ’93 until today,” Bruno said. “This is not what we play for. What’s important about (the win) is the torch has been handed to a new generation of Big East. We have to take that torch and run with it.”