Brittany Hrynko hits game-winning 3, lifts DePaul over Rutgers

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Great scorers always have the utmost confidence in their offensive abilities. No matter the angle, trajectory or positioning of their jumpshot, they have no doubt in their mind the ball will find its destined target at the bottom of the net.

“Actually, I thought I was gonna miss,” said Brittany Hrynko, whose three-pointer proved to be the eventual game-winner against Rutgers Tuesday night.

Er, scratch that. This may not be an edict of absolute truth.

Regardless, Hrynko’s deep triple with just 10.2 seconds remaining lifted the Blue Demons over the Scarlet Nights, 60-57 at the McGrath-Phillips Arena. The victory pushed DePaul’s home winning streak to 13 games.

Hrynko has become very familiar with having the ball in her hands late in games. Just two weeks ago, the 5-8 sophomore hit a difficult contested layup with 4.2 seconds left to beat Pittsburgh.

Here, Hrynko sat behind a screen set by Katherine Harry off an out-of-bounds play, well beyond the arc. Hrynko’s defender went under the screen, giving the Philadelphia native just enough room to launch and score, breaking the tie at 57 apiece.

“They gotta have the guts to take the last shot,” said head coach Doug Bruno. “When [your defender] goes underneath a ball screen, you’re taught to pop back and let it rip, and that’s what [Hrynko] did.”

On the ensuing possession, Rutgers’ Erica Wheeler raced to the opposite arc, but was met by Hrynko and Jenkins. Wheeler fumbled the ball and was forced to fire up a desperation three to tie, but barely hit iron.

“The shot Britt made was huge, and I don’t know if it was more important than the defensive stop she helped make on the shot taken by Wheeler on the last possession,” said Bruno. “Two great plays in crunch time.”

Yet for a game in which DePaul led most of the 40 minutes, at one point by 18, it was a surprise to see Rutgers climb its way back into the contest.

DePaul (18-7, 7-4 Big East) got a quick start to the game, using a Hrynko three-pointer to precipitate a 9-2 run. A shot from long range by Megan Podkowa, who finished with nine points and three rebounds, gave the Demons a 17-8 lead with 11:25 left in the half.

Chanise Jenkins and Jasmine Penny linked up a couple of times in the ensuing possessions, executing crisp pick-and-rolls to open up lanes to the basket. Jenkins finished with eight points and five assists, while Penny compiled a line of 16 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Katherine Harry, who matched up with six separate players over 6-feet, had her hands full on both ends of the floor, but came away with 16 points and five crucial rebounds.

“Our players really played well in the first half and did a great job,” said Bruno, who was pleased with the 35-19 lead headed into halftime. DePaul held Rutgers to just 31 percent (9-29 FG) shooting in the first half, but faced a dramatic turnaround in the second.

“I didn’t think we played a good second half at all,” said Bruno. “It started right out of the locker room: giving up shots, not defending, turning the ball over.”

DePaul finished with 25 turnovers, their most miscues in a game this season.

Rutgers (14-9, 5-5 Big East) was led by Wheeler and Rachel Hollivay, who finished with 12 points apiece, and rallied back to take its first lead, 50-48, with 7:17 left. Both teams traded baskets over the next several minutes, culminating in consecutive layups by Rutgers’ Syessence Davis. The second of Davis’ makes came in spite of a foul by Jenkins, sending the Rutgers guard to the line with a chance to give her team the lead, with the score knotted at 57.

Davis missed, however, giving DePaul the ball out of the timeout, and Hrynko her shot to win.

“I’m really proud of the players…[who] finally hunkered down in the second half, defended, and got some key rebounds.”

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Game notes:

Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer entered Tuesday’s game in pursuit of her 900th career coaching win, but will need to wait until Saturday when the Scarlet Knights face No. 3 UConn. Stringer would have joined Pat Summitt, Jody Conradt and Sylvia Hatchell as the only women’s coaches to reach the 900-win milestone.

Brittany Hrynko is now eight in DePaul single-season history in three-pointers made (69).