No. 20 DePaul survived a determined effort by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, beating the Cougars 75-65 and winning its 24th straight home game at McGrath-Phillips Arena.
"In moments like this we have a chance to celebrate what the kids at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville did tonight or denigrate what the kids at DePaul did tonight," said Bruno. "I would really like to celebrate what the kids at Southern Illinois did tonight. They came in fearless tonight and played a great game against us."
With DePaul starting a stretch of three games in five days, including a match up with No. 7/8 Tennessee on Sunday, the Blue Demons looked like a team closer to finishing that stretch than starting it.
DePaul committed four turnovers in its first five possessions, falling behind 5-2.
"At the start we knew DePaul could score in bunches and we did not want to dig ourselves a hole," said Cougars' coach Amanda Levens. "We thought it would be very tough to get out of that against a team like DePaul."
At 17:14 DePaul's Keisha Hampton ran into a pick and then fell to the floor clutching her right knee.
Hampton is listed day to day with a separate medical condition. Bruno could not say how much Hampton will play against Tennessee.
SIUE (4-4) had built an 18-9 lead before Hampton re-entered the game at the 10:25 mark.
With DePaul playing sloppy, uninspired basketball, freshman Brittany Hrynko sparked an 11-1 Blue Demon run.
Her three-pointer from the left wing, followed by her steal and three-pointer from the left corner cut SIUE's lead to 18-15. Her three-pointer two minutes later tied the game at 20.
At 7:22 the bad got worse for DePaul as Deanna Ortiz went down with a right ankle injury. She did not return. She was wearing a boot on her right foot at halftime.
Anna Martin's three-pointer gave DePaul its first lead at 23-20, and Katherine Harry's block- one of nine in the game for DePaul- off the backboard on a Cougar fast break attempt closed the half with DePaul leading 37-27.
DePaul (8-1, 1-0 Big East) is now 8-0 this year when leading at the half.
A three-pointer by Kelsey Reynolds with 9:33 left gave DePaul a 59-37 lead, but SIUE then went on a 17-6 run to close to 65-54 with 4:29 left. A three-point play by Maureen Mulchrone, a lay up by Hrynko and a three-pointer by Megan Rogowski boosted DePaul's lead to 73-56 with 3:00 left in the contest.
"I am obviously irritated at my own basketball team because they did not have the sense of urgency, the mental intelligence to understand that every person who plays basketball deserves equal respect," said Bruno. "I won't have anyone tell me [our team] was looking ahead to Tennessee. The players at SIUE deserve every bit of the same respect as do the players who play at Tennessee."
DePaul and the Lady Vols tangle at Madison Square Garden Sunday at noon CST as part of the Maggie Dixon Classic. The game will be televised on ESPNU.
DePaul, leading the Big East in free throw shooting at 76 percent, shot a season-low 57 percent (8-14) from the line.
The two teams scored 53 points off a combined 45 turnovers.
Martin scored 10 of her 15 points in the first half for DePaul. Hrynko added 15 points, Hampton 12 and Rogowski 9.
Courtney Kenner scored a game-high 16 points for the Cougars.
No. 20 DePaul Survives SIU-Edwardsville
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