Blue Demons dispatch Titans 105-68 behind five players in double-figures

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The women’s basketball team had five players in double-figure scoring and shared the ball efficiently against Illinois Wesleyan, defeating the Titans 105-68 in its final exhibition game at McGrath-Phillips Arena Saturday afternoon.

Led by junior Kelsey Reynolds’ 21 points (9-13 shooting), the Blue Demons racked up 32 assists against 20 turnovers, breaking the Titans’ pesky full court press continuously with crisp passes up the court for layups.

“I think our team demonstrated that they can get a lot better in just a couple days — I think they played much better basketball than they did Tuesday [against St. Xavier],” said head coach Doug Bruno. “It’s that time of year that they have to understand that you can get better quickly, but you really need to get focused.”

Sophomore point guard Brittany Hrynko, who had a 19-point, 14-assist performance against St. Xavier, once again had a standout all-around game. Hrynko scored 19 points off of 11 shots, to go along with seven rebounds and six assists. Backing up Hrynko off the bench was freshman point guard Chanise Jenkins, returning to the lineup after missing all of two games last season, as well as Tuesday’s game against the Cougars.

“It’s a thrill to have Chanise back. She’s one of the best point guards I’ve been around,” said Bruno. “The bad news is we lost her for the year [last season], the good news was Brittany Hrynko got a year of experience.”

Jenkins called sitting out last year “a good learning lesson,” as it gave her the opportunity to watch Hrynko and other guards run the point, “seeing what’s good to do and what’s not working. Like coach always says, ‘when your body can’t work, your mind has to work.'”

Jenkins looked in fine form breaking full-court pressure after checking into the game early in the first half — she fed freshman Megan Podkowa for an easy layup off a 2-on-1 fastbreak to push the Blue Demons’ lead to 28-6 with 12:03 left in the half.

“It felt great,” said Jenkins, when asked about her performance Saturday. “I just knew my teammates were there to have my back, and it was a great defensive effort by Kelsey. It just felt good to be back out there back with my team and being able to help my team in any way possible.”

Reynolds caught fire early in the second half, hitting back-to-back threes that bookended her drawing a charge on the defensive end. DePaul’s lead was pushed to 75-34 with just over 13 minutes left to play in the game, which the Demons all but dominated.

“Kelsey Reynolds made shots tonight,” said Bruno. “She’s been making shots since the season started, but she also did a lot of things between touches that are necessary for her to put herself on the floor. It was her being in passing lanes, her stirring things up defensively and making some simple passes that was really enjoyable to coach.”

Some of Reynolds’ off-ball activity was just as valuable as her scoring, including rotating effectively on defense to disrupt the Titans’ undersized lineup.

“This week in practice we really emphasized getting out in passing lanes on defense, so I just tried to execute the gameplan the coaches set out for us,” said Reynolds. “As far as making shots, I feel like my teammates really got me open. We moved the ball really well, and I was lucky when I got to shoot it and made them tonight.”

Brandi Harvey-Carr (13), Jasmine Penny (13) and Katherine Harry (11) rounded out the Blue Demons’ double-digit scoring.

With the exhibition portion of their schedule complete, the Blue Demons next look to the Maggie Dixon Classic, Nov. 9-10. An annual tournament hosted at DePaul, the Maggie Dixon Classic is always a chance for the Blue Demons to jump out on the regular season and gather some momentum for their conference schedule.

“Our players have to be ready to play the first night they throw the ball up, they can’t wait until January or February or March to start getting better,” said Bruno. “They need to get better right out of the blocks.”