SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Despite trailing by double digits at halftime, DePaul coach Doug Bruno thought his team was in a good place.
Turned out he was right, once the Blue Demons’ outside shots finally started to fall Friday.
Megan Podkowa scored 23 points and No. 9 seed DePaul used a 22-4 second half run to come from behind and beat eighth-seeded Minnesota 79-72 in the first round of NCAA Tournament on Friday.
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The Blue Demons (27-7) missed 20 of their first 22 3-pointers, but their dormant perimeter game suddenly came to life five minutes into the second half when Podkowa hit consecutive 3-pointers to spark the long run.
”At halftime, I really thought, as crazy as this sounds, (the players) heard me say I thought we were in a good place,” Bruno said.
The main reason was DePaul’s pressure. The Demons hounded Minnesota the entire length of the court and forced a season-high 28 Golden Gophers turnovers. That constant pressure took its toll down the stretch.
”I thought Minnesota was exhausted at halftime,” Bruno said.
Gophers coach Marlene Stollings agreed.
”We got a little bit rattled handling the ball,” Stollings said. ”In a 40 minute game, when you don’t have a lot of depth, that (pressure) has a tendency to wear on you.”
DePaul’s big second-half burst turned a 15-point deficit into a 56-53 lead with 9:23 left after Ashton Millender’s line-drive 3-pointer from the left wing.
”We all know that we can make shots,” Podkowa said. ”The coaches did a good job at halftime telling us that our shots are going to fall, we just had to keep getting the open looks.”
Chanise Jenkins added 16 points for DePaul.
Amanda Zahui B. led Minnesota (23-10) with 21 points and 22 rebounds. She came one board short of matching the NCAA Tournament record. Shae Kelley added 17 for the Gophers.
The Blue Demons, second in the nation in scoring (86.8 points per game) and 3-pointers per game (10.5), missed their first 10 3s and fell behind by eight points after an early 9-0 Minnesota run.
DePaul fought back to take a one-point lead with six minutes left before halftime, but missed its last eight 3-point tries and finished 2-of-20 for the half. Carlie Wagner knocked down three 3-pointers and Zahui had 12 rebounds in the first 20 minutes as the Gophers led 41-30 at the break.
Brittany Hrynko came in averaging 19.6 points per game for DePaul, but struggled shooting and finished with 10 points. She hit just 3 of 16 from the field, but her six assists set a new DePaul career record of 676.
”She’s human,” Bruno said of Hrynko. ”She still has super value to our team.”
DOWN NOT OUT
Despite forcing 12 first-half turnovers, Bruno knew his team’s defense, and their will to win, could be better in the second half.
”Maybe the 15-point deficit was the best things that could have happened to us,” Bruno said. ”It really showed (the players) that our backs were going to be against the wall and they had to fight.”
DePaul: The previous school record for assists was 672 set by Veronica Ross from 1986-90. … Hrynko played in her 137th game for the Blue Demons, breaking the school record set by Katherine Harry from 2009-13. … DePaul is 9-11 in NCAA Tournament opening-round games.
Minnesota: Zahui has a school-record 135 blocked shots. The Big Ten season record is 150 set by Michigan State’s Allyssa DeHaan set in 2007-08. … Minnesota is 6-3 in NCAA Tournament opening-round games. … The Golden Gophers are 2-2 in NCAA Tournament games in South Bend, including upsets of Notre Dame in the first-round in 1994 and 2009.