Podkowa Helps Push DePaul to Finals

ROSEMONT, Ill- A matter of night and day turned into a matter of night and night for DePaul and for Megan Podkowa.

Podkowa scored a team-high 22 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds as No. 2 seed DePaul beat No. 3 seed Villanova 58-55 in the second Big East tournament semifinal game Monday night at the Allstate Arena.

DePaul beat Xavier 87-53 in one of Monday’s quarterfinals, but tonight’s score at the half had DePaul leading 25-21. Podkowa in the Xavier game scored seven points and picked up three fouls in 21 minutes of play.

But her play tonight helped DePaul beat Villanova at its pace as the Blue Demons advance to the title game for the second straight year.

“We can get [Villanova] into our tempo, but to get them [there] I have to give up some things that I don’t want to give up when playing against them,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “It doesn’t give our fans 80 or 90 point games, but it does give them some drama.”

And in a game that had 15 lead changes and five ties, the drama in the in the final nine minutes was brought forth by both teams.

Podkowa’s 3-pointer with 18:10 to play gave DePaul its largest lead of the game at 31-23. Two lay ups by Villanova’s Alex Louin cut the lead to 40-39 with 9:31 to play. A 3-pointer by Villanova’s Caroline Coyer (game-high 26 points) tied the game at 42 with just under nine minutes left to play. A 3-pointer by the Wildcats’ Samantha Wilkes gave Villanova a 51-49 lead, but DePaul held the Wildcats scoreless over the next 4:37. DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko answered with a 3-pointer, and then Podkowa went to work.

Her spin move was followed by one of two free throws and another spin move down low to key an 8-0 DePaul run and a 57-51 Blue Demon with 1:46 to play.

“I was definitely trying to be more aggressive with every game,” said Podkowa. “I think it was just getting the ball in or getting it back out to my teammates. All of the guards did a really good job of getting me the ball, they found me on the three and they found me inside.”

Podkowa was 9-16 from the field including 2-5 from 3-point range to go along with three assists.

“I thought it was really important that Brittany Hrynko, who wasn’t necessarily having one of her signature games, did a really good job of understanding down the stretch that Megan Podkowa was our go-to player at that point and she did a great job of getting Megan the ball and Megan answered the bell,” said Bruno.

The Wildcats, in an attempt to tie the game in the final 10 seconds, missed two 3-pointers and a layup in that stretch.

“I don’t think there is that much of a difference [in playing at Villanova’s tempo],” said Hrynko. “We still pressure the ball and do all of the things we are used to doing.”

Hrynko finished with 13 points and four assists.

Villanova (19-13) has led the country in four of last seven years in fewest turnovers per game. The Wildcats had 11 turnovers tonight after just three turnovers in their quarterfinal win against Butler. They lead the BIG EAST in scoring defense at 55.3 ppg.

DePaul’s 25 first-half points is a season low. DePaul closed the final 45 seconds of the first half with a jumper by Jessica January, and a steal by Centrese McGee and layup by Chanise Jenkins (11 points, six rebounds, and four assists) to give the Blue Demons a four-point halftime lead.

DePaul’s 17 assists tonight moved them into second place all-time at DePaul.

This was Villanova’s 13th appearance all-time in the Big East semis. They Wildcats are now 4-2 all-time as a No. 3 seed. The Wildcats shot 42.3 percent for the game. They are now 15-3 this year when shooting 40 percent or better from the field.

DePaul (25-7) plays No. 1 seed Seton Hall for the title on Tuesday night at 7:00 CST. This is the third straight year where the top two seeds will play for the title. This is Seton Hall’s first appearance in the title game since 1995.

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