Rogowski scores career high 22 points in 89-61 win over Northwestern

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The DePaul women’s team’s unabating defensive effort held uptown rival Northwestern to just 38 percent shooting (23-61 FG), as the Blue Demons trounced the Wildcats 89-61 at McGrath-Phillips Arena Sunday night.

Led by sophomore guard Megan Rogowski, who scored a career high 22 points (8-15 FG) off the bench, the Blue Demons clamped down on the Wildcats from the tip. Coming away with a dominant 51-38 rebounding advantage, DePaul worked tirelessly to keep Northwestern’s tall frontcourt players in check on defense, while spreading the floor and finding open baskets on the attack.

“I never imagined we were going to play as well as we ended up playing today,” said head coach Doug Bruno, who coached his 800th career game at DePaul Sunday. “Northwestern is a really, really good basketball team. They’re 6-1 for a reason.”

Rogowski, whose alma mater John Hersey High School gathered a contingent to come watch her play, didn’t disappoint her supporters with her shooting performance.

“Yeah, they got themselves together and decided to come to this game and it just happened that I shot the ball really well and put some points up,” said Rogowski. “It was just luck that they were falling.”

Bruno laughed at the thought that Rogowski’s scoring Sunday was luck. Rather, this is the kind of play he has expected from her since the preseason.

“Rogo got off to a bit of a slow start, but now in the last two ball games, we’re starting to see exactly what I saw in the first four weeks of preseason practice,” said Bruno. “This is the Rogo that we watched get ready for this season.”

Coming off a tough second-place finish in the Paradise Jam tournament held in the Virgin Islands last week, losing to South Carolina in the final, the Blue Demons returned to their home court with a renewed energy and determination to shut down their opponent. The matchup against Northwestern was essentially a must-win game.

“We didn’t play close to our best basketball in the Virgin Islands, and the last seven days have been a week of catharsis,” said Bruno. “We’ve really worked on a lot of attitude and effort, executing the simple functions of the game of basketball.”

After starting the game shooting 0-6 and turning the ball over three times, DePaul (6-2) put together a commanding 21-6 run that saw Rogowski, Brittany Hrynko and Anna Martin all hit consecutive triples to give DePaul a 29-14 lead with just under eight minutes to play in the first half.

Martin finished with 12 points, while Hrynko filled the statsheet with 17 points, six rebounds and six assists. Starting shooting guard Chanise Jenkins managed just four points, but contributed six assists and five rebounds.

Kelsey Smith, who got her first in-game action at McGrath-Phillips Arena, provided a nice spark off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds in 19 minutes. The 6-4 junior transfer from Michigan State was a welcome sight off the bench for Katherine Harry and Jasmine Penny, who had their hands full protecting the paint.

“It’s really nice to have Kelsey back. It’s just nice knowing that when you bust your tail for five minutes, you’ll be able to have that sub in Kelsey come in,” said Katherine Harry. “Kelsey can sustain what we have in the post and give us something that we might not have. She showed tonight that she’s gonna make shots around the bucket and make some passes.”

Harry finished with her third double-double of the season with 11 points and 15 rebounds. According to Bruno, Harry did a nice job of focusing on the “little things.”

“Defend, rebound, one-and-out our opponent every trip with the maximum amount of energy, focus and effort, and the rest of her game is gonna take care of itself,” said Bruno.

Harry was tasked with defending the Wildcats’ 6-5 center Dannielle Diamant, who mustered just 11 points on 4-11 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds.

DePaul’s defense did an excellent job of forcing Northwestern to the perimeter and not allowing easy avenues to drive or toss in entry passes to the post. Hands were raised and position down low was battled for, preventing inside baskets while also contesting outside attempts with purpose.

Northwestern’s Kendall Hackney, who Bruno credited with having a “great career” against his team, struggled to produce as effectively as she is certainly capable. Penny, who was DePaul’s fifth player in double-figure scoring with 13 points, worked hard to keep the 6-2 senior under wraps, holding Hackney to 14 points on 6-12 shooting.

In the second half, the Blue Demons simply let their defense dictate the game. With long Northwestern threes turning into long rebounds and fastbreak opportunities, DePaul kept running  to give them plenty of options in transition.

A 12-0 run in the middle of the second half pushed the Blue Demons out even further. Hrynko hit back-to-back bombs from beyond the arc, showing Rogowski wasn’t the only one who could shoot from range. The consecutive triples at the time gave Hrynko 14 points, extending DePaul’s lead to 81-50. From then on, it was a pleasant cruise to the final buzzer.

As for Bruno’s milestone 800th career game coached, the McGrath-Phillips Arena court’s namesake had very little to say.

“He didn’t talk about it much,” said Harry. “But in the back of our minds, we knew it was a special occasion. He never brings stuff like that up very much.”

DePaul’s next game is against No. 9/8 Kentucky, Friday at 6 p.m. at Rupp Arena.