Penny Paces DePaul in Big East Opener

CHICAGO- It is almost too early in the new year for encores, but DePaul's Jasmine Penny is ahead of the pack in that category.

Jasmine Penny scored 17 of her game-high 27 points in the first half as DePaul (10-3, 1-0 Big East) pushed its season-high win streak to six in defeating Xavier 87-60 Wednesday afternoon in front of 2,583 fans at McGrath-Phillips Arena.

She had scored a career-high 29 points on 13 of 14 from the field in a win versus Bradley this past Sunday.

"I have been coming out relaxed and ready to play," said Penny. "I have been focusing on my shots and the guards have been doing a good job of getting me the ball."

DePaul led 23-8 at the 10:00 mark of the first half, with Penny scoring 12 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. Xavier (5-8, 0-1 Big East) shot just 22 percent (4-19 from the field) up to that point, and was held without a field goal for almost four minutes.

Penny ranks 15th in field goal percentage in Division I at 60 percent, and she is now playing the best basketball she has played while at DePaul.

"Jasmine is a special player to coach," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. "When you coach people like Jasmine, she is totally a throwback [to the old-school type players]. She listens and allows herself to be coached, she works to get better, she does what she is supposed to do, and she does a great job in the classroom."

Xavier, in its first year in the Big East, qualified for the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament in all 18 years it was in that conference, winning the title six times.

DePaul is now 6-1 all-time versus the Musketeers.

The Blue Demons led 41-30 at the half, but Xavier's 6-0 run to open the second half, cutting the lead to five points with just under two minutes gone by.

It was then that Penny and the Big East's Pre-Season Player of the Year, DePaul's Brittany Hrynko, keyed a 19-4 DePaul run, with Hrynko making consecutive three-pointers and Penny scoring four straight points to push the DePaul lead to 68-46 with 11:25 left. Freshman Jessica January added two three-pointers during that run, tying her season-high with 13 points.

DePaul was picked first in this year's Big East pre-season poll. The last time the Blue Demons were picked to win their conference was in 2004, when it was selected to win the Conference USA title. That same year was the first time a DePaul player, three-time All-America Khara Smith, was chosen as the Pre-Season Conference Player of the Year.

Hrynko went one for two at the line with 6:16 remaining, giving her 999 career points at DePaul. Her four three-pointers ties Laura Sobieszcyk (154) for ninth all-time at DePaul. She finished the game with 19 points and three assists.

The key number for the Musketeers for this game was 70. Xavier had been 135-9 over the past 12 seasons when scoring 70 or more points. The downside for Xavier this year has been its field goal percentage defense, ranked 287 out of 343 teams.

DePaul's 50.7 field goal percentage was its third highest this season. Xavier's 37.3 field goal percentage was the second lowest by a Blue Demon opponent this year.

The Blue Demons held the Musketeers' leading scorer, Shatyra Hawkes, to seven points, eight below her average. Briana Glover and Jenna Crittendon each scored 14 points for Xavier.

"It was an important win for a lot of reasons," said Bruno. "This was our first Big East game, and you have to take care of your home court."

Creighton will hope to do likewise on January 4th, with the Blue Demons traveling to play the Blue Jays in a 4:00 p.m. game to be televised on Fox Sports 1. Creighton finished 25-8 last year and have qualified for the NCAA Tournament the past two years. Creighton was picked to finished second in the Big East.

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