Guard play leads way in Durham


DURHAM, N.C. -- The season is no longer about what you can be. It's about what you are.

Whether that's two guards you can't take your eyes off trading highlights in a classic or one guard whose ability to blend in helped ensure a rout.

Behind plays to remember from Brittany Hrynko and DePaul's entire backcourt, the seventh-seeded Blue Demons beat No. 10 seed Oklahoma 104-100 in the highest scoring regulation game in women's NCAA tournament history. And with Ka'lia Johnson working quietly behind the scenes of a dominant post performance, second-seeded Duke beat No. 15 Winthrop 87-45.

After Duke rolled to its win in the opening game, it looked for a time that the second game of the day would offer only slightly more reason to skip the burst of spring weather outside and stay indoors. DePaul maintained a multiple-possession lead for much of the first half and rolled off a 9-0 run in the final 44 seconds to take a 50-34 halftime lead.

And that's exactly when Oklahoma's Aaryn Ellenberg put together one of those performances that make the month what it is.

The Sooners senior finished with 36 points on 12-of-22 shooting, including 26 points and three steals in a second half that saw Oklahoma outscore DePaul 66-54 -- more points than Cal, Florida State, Oklahoma State or Syracuse needed to win first-round games Saturday.

"I think it's appropriate that Vegas' last game in an Oklahoma uniform, she scores 36 and gets key steals," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said of the guard who goes by the nickname that doubles as her hometown. "She just played really possessed offensively, and she's done that on occasion throughout her career. When she does, there's not a whole lot you can do about it. It's really fun to watch. I thought every phase of her game -- defensively, offensively, rebounding, everything -- I thought she was really engaged tonight. Her best version of herself for 40 minutes."

The problem was that as good as she was, Ellenberg couldn't singlehandedly outscore DePaul's backcourt. Not with the scoreboard rolling at a rate that left DePaul coach Doug Bruno to harken back to a ride around nearby Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Blue Demons starters Hrynko, Chanise Jenkins and Megan Rogowski combined for 54 points, shooting 54 percent from the field in the process, and 12 assists. And the starting backcourt had help; freshman guard Jessica January added 14 points and three steals off the bench.

The Sooners led by as many as five points after Ellenberg ignited a 24-point swing in less than 10 minutes on the game clock. But a 3-pointer from Hrynko tied the score at 84 with 5:43 to play. It wasn't tied long, as Ellenberg scored 10 seconds later to put her team back in front. But on the next possession, with Ellenberg giving her a little more than an arm's reach of space, left perhaps ever so slightly flat-footed by the pace, Hrynko rose and hit another 3-pointer to put her team back in front 87-86. Work remained but DePaul never again trailed.

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