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No. 23/22 DePaul Plays St. John's for the BIG EAST Tournament Championship

March 11, 2014

BIG EAST Championship Game - St. John's vs. DePaul

Games Notes: DePaul Get Acrobat Reader| St. John's Get Acrobat Reader
TV: Fox Sports 1 - Tiffany Greene & LaChina Robinson
Radio: Westwood One - Jason Benetti & Anne Meyers-Drysdale
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ROSEMONT, Ill. - Standing on the precipice of program history with an opportunity to leave an indelible imprint on the legendary tradition of BIG EAST Conference women's basketball didn't seem to register with the Blue Demons.

All that mattered to coach Doug Bruno and his players is their 8 p.m. showdown on Tuesday against St. John's at Allstate Arena for the BIG EAST tournament title.

Certainly they realize coming out on top secures an automatic berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament. They know it would be the first BIG EAST postseason championship for No. 23/25 DePaul (26-6).

Everyone on both sides knows the storyline.

St. John's (22-9) came into McGrath-Phillips Arena on Jan. 11 and stunned DePaul 96-86, scoring the most points in more than five years. Aliyyah Handford led her team with 21 points while Amber Thompson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

The Red Storm erupted for 61 points in the second half, shooting nearly 68 percent from the floor. Jasmine Penny had 23 points and four blocks while Chanise Jenkins finished with 21 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Brittany Hrynko added 13 points, seven assists and four steals.

"After we lost that first game, we really wanted to come back and beat them," Penny said.

Payback came on March 1 at Carneseca Arena with an 80-65 victory behind Hrynko's 21 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals. Megan Rogowski had 16 points, Jenkins 12 points and Jessica January 11 points and three steals.

"We did a good job of executing against St. John's the second time," Jenkins said. "What was different is that we followed coach's game plan and we were more disciplined. We played a different defense from the first game and rebounded a lot better.

"Once we come together as a force, we can beat them."

Coming into the title game, Handford has scored 43 points in the BIG EAST tournament with 10 rebounds and five steals. Danaejah Grant has 30 points and 13 rebounds in the two games. Thompson has 15 points and 19 rebounds.

"We'll have to stay disciplined on defense," Jenkins said. "Keep the player you're guarding in front of you and don't let her get to the basket. We need to stick closely to coach's game plan."

Penny said:  "I agree with Chanise---stay disciplined. We have to play good defense and concentrate on rebounding."

Getting back into a structured defense can sometimes be challenging in the Blue Demon system.

"It's not easy to stay disciplined on defense when I'm asking them to run all over the floor and run and press," Bruno said. "It's not easy to execute the run-and-trap and then also get back to play a disciplined defense."

DePaul has scored 178 points in two tournament games compared to 134 for St. John's. Penny leads the way with 40 points and nine rebounds so far. Rogowski has 38 points and five assists.

Jenkins has 26 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals while Megan Podkowa checks in with 21 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.

In the tournament, January has 19 points, 12 rebounds and four steals and Hrynko has contributed 17 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

The Blue Demons have forced 45 turnovers at Allstate Arena and converted them into 49 points. They've done a good job on the boards with 84 rebounds in two games. Penny has made 15 of her 19 shots in the tournament.

"This is for the players," Bruno said. "It's great for them and for the program. I believe there are five teams in the BIG EAST good enough to play in the NCAA tournament---DePaul, St. John's Creighton, Marquette and Villanova. That's how good this league is.

"For now, they've got to focus on St. John's. We're two Vincentian universities going for the BIG EAST title. DePaul versus St. John's. It'll be like the `Vincentian Bowl.'"

It couldn't come at a better time for Penny, who is a senior.

"I'm so happy for all of us that we're playing for the BIG EAST title," Penny said. "Everyone has worked so hard all year to get here.

"I could never find a closer group of teammates to play with, and I couldn't be happier for the team."