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No. 23 DePaul Women Clinch At Least a Tie for Big East Title

CHICAGO - In the best of all possible worlds, your team would at least tie for a title, and on Senior Day your two seniors would play great. That world for DePaul, Chanise Jenkins, and Megan Podkowa existed on Sunday afternoon.

Jenkins tied a team-high with 17 points and tied a career-high with 10 assists and Megan Podkowa added nine points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two blocks as No. 23 DePaul beat Butler 102-63 to clinch at least a tie for the Big East regular season title.

DePaul (21-7, 13-2) is now the only team besides UConn to have won three straight Big East regular season titles.

Butler (8-17, 3-11) had outscored DePaul 17-13 in the fourth quarter in the last meeting between the two teams, a 61-54 DePaul win, but after the Bulldogs opened this game with an 8-2 lead, even a four-point deficit was hard to come by. DePaul’s 102 points is the most given up by Butler this year. DePaul now leads the series 10-0 and has averaged 85.8 ppg to Butler’s 57.2 ppg in the series. 

Podkowa’s three-pointer was part of a 7-0 DePaul run that tied the game at 11. DePaul shot 4-5 from the field and Butler had three turnovers during that run. The Blue Demons took their first lead on Jacqui Grant’s put back off a Jenkins’ miss. Grant had eight rebounds, one shy of her career-high. Jenkins then stole the ball and went the length of the court for a layup for a 21-17 DePaul lead. 

The big blows by DePaul came in the second quarter, when Jessica January’s three-pointer was part of a 5-7 shooting spree by DePaul and a 34-23 lead. Ashton Millender’s (career-high-tying 15 points) second and third 3-pointers of the game opened up a 15-point lead for DePaul. Jenkins followed with a three-point play and then a twisting drive and lay up at the buzzer to cap a 22-3 DePaul run and give the Blue Demon a 45-25 lead at the half. Butler did not score for the last 3:29 of the quarter.    

“We did pretty much everything coach wants us to do in that span,” Jenkins said. “We were hitting the open woman, we trusted each other, and we locked down on defense.” 

DePaul’s largest lead was 39 points with twenty-three seconds left in the game.

“This group has shown that it can be very good,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “And we have also shown that we can be very average. And I think when we really bring it and are really focused, I think the results are what you saw today.”

DePaul had a season high 30 assists, breaking the 29 it had in its win versus then-No. 15/16 Texas A&M. The Blue Demons are assisting on 68.2 percent of their baskets. They assisted on 77 percent today (30 on 39). DePaul has had 21 or more assists in 15 games this year. Jenkins (5.5) and Jessica January (5.4) are No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference in assists per game.

“Every game we don’t know who is going to be the one to step up,” Podkowa said. “We know how good we can be if we all are on, but it is awesome to know that if one of us is off that there are going to be [players] stepping up behind us.” 

January added 17 points, five assists, and four steals today. Her 380 assists places her in seventh place all-time at DePaul in that category. 

Freshman Tanita Allen scored 11 points in 10 minutes of play. Grant and Brooke Schulte each added nine points and Amarah Coleman scored eight on 3-4 shooting from the field. DePaul got 41 points from its bench. 

The teams shot a combined 7-7 from the field midway through the third quarter, but matching baskets was not enough for Butler as DePaul opened up a 58-36 lead. Butler leads the Big East in three-point field goal percentage defense at 29.2, but DePaul shot 33.3 percent (9-27) today.

Butler coach Kurt Godlevske was ejected with 7:01 to play in the game and his team trailing 80-52. Jenkins and Podkowa then shot 3-4 on the ensuing free throws and were then substituted. The pair left the game to a huge round of applause from the crowd of 2,409 and hugs from their coaches and teammates in their final regular season home game.  

Jenkins played in her 133rd career game at DePaul today, which is fifth most played all-time. Her 641 career assists is third all-time at DePaul. Her 10 assists moves her into 15th place all-time in the Big East with 321 in the conference.

Podkowa is second in the Big East in double-doubles this year with seven. Both players are career +1,000 point scorers. 

DePaul presented a video montage of Jenkins and Podkowa on the scoreboard after the game. It was fitting that the final highlight was Jenkins firing a full-court pass to Podkowa for a layup.

“Megan and Chanise are very talented players, but they have been two of the most special people that have played [at DePaul],” Bruno said. “There are players that go further, maybe in the WNBA, but as far as college basketball players go they are two of the purest that I have ever coached.”

DePaul travels to Providence on Feb. 19 before finishing up the regular season at Creighton and at Marquette. The Blue Demons, with their win today, secured the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, which will be played March 5-8 at McGrath-Phillips Arena.  

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