Megan Podkowa scored a career-high 27 points and notched her third consecutive double-double to help No. 16/15 DePaul hand No. 12/13 Northwestern its first loss of the year, 77-64.
DePaul has been a perennial Associated Press Top 25 team, but last year was Northwestern’s first entry into the Top 25 since Jan. 29, 1996. This was the first time since 1996 that these two teams have played each other when both have been in the Top 25.
DePaul’s (8-4) week had been one of take, give, and now take again. The Blue Demons were coming off a win versus No. 15 Texas A&M, an upset loss at South Dakota State Tuesday, and were now playing a team that had beaten them the past two years, including 97-91 in double overtime last year.
Podkowa made sure early that any repeat of last year’s result would be hard-earned by the Wildcats (10-1).
She scored seven of her points in the first quarter, and her 3-pointer with 5:02 left in that quarter gave DePaul a 12-4 lead. The Blue Demons led this game for 39:06. The Wildcats led just once and started off shooting 1-7 from the floor.
“In coming off the loss [to South Dakota State], we had to be ready to play this game,” Podkowa said. “We did not get off to a quick start [at South Dakota State] and we know that Northwestern does typically get off to a quick start.”
The Blue Demons led 18-8 after one quarter. The Wildcats shot 2-17 from the floor, with both field goals being 3-pointers. Northwestern had been +9.3 in outscoring opponents in first quarters this year.
DePaul stretched its lead in the second quarter, with Chanise Jenkins (13 points and a game-high tying eight assists) scoring three straight baskets and assisting on Podkowa’s 3-pointer with one second left. DePaul led 39-26 at the half. The 39 points are a Northwestern opponent first-half high this year and the 26 points are a Northwestern low.
The Blue Demons started the third quarter with four straight points by Jacqui Grant (13 points and six rebounds) before the Wildcats reeled off a 12-3 run and closed to 55-52 at quarter’s end.
“We told each other to get back into the game and that we can’t let up,” Jenkins said.
Podkowa brought up last year’s loss to Northwestern.
“We wanted to remember they did get it close after three quarters, but we still came out with a lot of energy [tonight].”
The Blue Demons opened the fourth quarter with 10 consecutive points in the paint to open up a 65-54 lead. Podkowa’s 23-footer boosted the lead to 72-58 with 4:13 left to play.
“I am really proud of these two seniors [Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa],” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “They really did a great job from beginning to end, and I thought their leadership was crucial when we gave away a 16-point lead. Both of them stepped up and stood up at that moment, and I thought that was huge.”
“I thought that was a really defining moment for this group, and [Jenkins and Podkowa] grabbed the team. Players that are leaders are coaches on the floor, and that is what these two both did tonight.”
“Give DePaul a lot of credit,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “They executed and they made shots when they had to. And then when we made a run they came right back. That was an important stretch.”
Northwestern’s 69 points is a team-low this season. The Wildcats are No. 22 in the country in scoring at 80 points per game.
The Wildcats won nine straight when the series between the two teams originated in 1975. DePaul then won 10 straight from 1999-2008. DePaul leads the series 17-16.
DePaul is No. 2 in the county in assists at 22.5 per game and it had 25 assists on 30 baskets tonight.
The Blue Demons’ Jessica January is No. 12 in the country in assists per game at 6.5, and she had eight tonight to go along with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Podkowa shot 6-7 from behind the arc. She was shooting 54.2 percent from the field before tonight’s 9-15 effort. She led all rebounders with 14. DePaul ourebounded Northwestern 50-37.
Notes: Tonight’s game was Northwestern’s Autism Awareness game. Before the game, McKeown and Bruno each presented a check to the organization, Autism Speaks.
“I want to thank DePaul and coach Bruno for participating in the Autism Awareness game,” McKeown said after the game. “It is really a special thing to our program and to their generosity. It means a lot that we can give some kids in the Chicago area a day where they can just come and watch a basketball game and have fun, and the parents too.”