DURHAM, N.C. – Aaryn Ellenberg showed why she was a unanimous All-Big 12 first-team selection.
Oklahoma’s senior guard gave a spectacular 36-point performance in the first round of the Lincoln Region on Saturday, but it wasn’t enough to hold off DePaul in a 104-100 Sooner loss.
Ellenberg scored 26 points in the second half to lead a rally that erased a 19-point lead and put the Sooners up by five before the Blue Demons rallied for the win. The first-round loss is OU’s first since 2005, and the 100 points are the highest for a losing team in the women’s NCAA Tournament.
“Aaryn is a special, special player,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. “When the game is on the line, she will try to take it over, and that’s what I told the players at halftime. And she did.”
Leading 50-34 at the half behind torrid 3-point shooting (60 percent), DePaul built its lead to 19 with 15:57 left before the Sooners began their run.
After getting outrebounded in the first half, OU became more aggressive on the boards and with its defense. Behind Ellenberg’s eight points, the Sooners needed less than three minutes to whittle the lead to single digits, 69-61, with 13:18 left.
DePaul’s Brittany Hrynko (19 points) made a layup to push it back to 10 before OU went on another run – this time 17-6 – to take a 78-77 lead, its first since the 14-minute mark in the first half.
“I am proud of the way they came back in the second half,” OU coach Sherri Coale said. “We could have gone in a corner and hung our heads. I’m especially proud of our seniors and the leadership they showed.”
Four straight points by Sharane Campbell (22 points, 10 rebounds) built the Sooners’ lead to 84-79 with 6:29 remaining. But OU couldn’t stop the guard trio of Hrynko, Chanise Jenkins (21 points) and Megan Rogowski (24 points).
Jenkins and Hrynko scored 11 of DePaul’s next 15 points to retake the lead 91-86 with 4:20 remaining.
But OU didn’t wilt. The Sooners battled back to tie the game 95-all on Ellenberg’s three free throws at the 1:20 mark.
“She (Ellenberg) played possessed,” Coale said. “Every phase of her game was engaged tonight. As a senior, that’s how you want to go out.”
Hrynko put DePaul back ahead before Portia Durrett (11 points) gave OU its last tie of the game. With 39.3 seconds left, Hrynko found a wide open Rogowski, who nailed the trey for a 100-97 score.
An OU turnover gave the ball back to DePaul, which made its free throws down the stretch.
Ellenberg, who hit a final 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds left, took some solace from the loss.
“I gave it all I had for 40 minutes,” she said. “I have nothing to hang my head about.”
The Sooners opened the game with a red-hot hand – hitting four 3-pointers in the first five minuteso lead 14-12. After four lead changes, DePaul extended its pressure defense to full court and began to take charge.
Rogowski scored seven points in a 13-5 Blue Demon run that gave DePaul its biggest lead of 33-25 with six minutes left.
Durrett’s basket cut it to six, but DePaul outscored OU 17-7 to end the half, including the final nine points, all on three-point plays.