Monday, March 21, 2011
Posted 8:37 p.m. Updated 9:58 p.m.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Keisha Hampton is turning her NCAA tournament into a happy homecoming.
It took her two foul shots with 4.9 seconds left to finally get DePaul past Penn State in a thrilling second-round game Monday night.
The Blue Demons forward shook off a poor first half by scoring 19 of her 26 points after halftime, including the two free throws in the final seconds, and third-seeded DePaul rallied from 14 points down to defeat Penn State 75-73 to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2006.
"I can't let our season end like this, we worked too hard for this," Hampton said in recounting her thoughts before approaching the foul line. "I just took my time and shot those free throws and made them. I just didn't want our season to end like that."
Not in Happy Valley, in spite of a decidedly pro-Penn State crowd in a game being played on the Lady Lions' home floor. Julia Trogele, a senior, had 14 points and 11 rebounds in her final game at the Jordan Center.
The Blue Demons (29-6) won a hard-earned trip back to Pennsylvania on Sunday to play Duke in the regional semis in Philadelphia - Hampton's hometown.
"That this young women is going to be able to come back home to Philadelphia in a regional is just huge. I'm so excited for her ... that she put her team on her back," coach Doug Bruno said.
She wasn't nearly done after he free throws, though, jumping in on a double team of Penn State's Alex Bentley on the ensuing inbounds play to whittle precious seconds off the clock. Trogele missed a desperation heave from halfcourt at the buzzer.
After making the NCAAs for the first time since 2005, the sixth-seeded Lady Lions' resurgent season came to an end.
"It doesn't make it difficult," Trogele said. "We made it this far and to be able to end on the court I started on is great and I'll take it with pride."
After Trogele missed from 15 feet with 20 seconds left, the Blue Demons set up their last shot for leading scorer Hampton. Penn State's Alex Bentley was whistled for a foul after Hampton went up from behind the arc.
She missed the shot, but hit the two of the three critical free throws. The designed play to Bentley fell through, and Penn State lost their first NCAA game at the Jordan Center after going 9-0.
"We felt very confident in getting the ball in Alex's hands and her being able to make something happen," coach Coquese Washington said. "They did a great job of not letting her get up the floor. They made a better play. That's basketball."
Bentley scored 17 of her 21 points in the second half, while Nikki Greene added 12 points, all in the first half, for Penn State.
The Lady Lions (25-10) led by 14 with 18:20 left before DePaul's methodical second-half surge behind Hampton and Felicia Chester, who finished with 16 points.
After shooting 1 of 6 in the first half, Hampton hit 6 of 12 after halftime, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range in the second half. The 6-foot-3 Chester took control in the paint, and her layup with 3:49 left gave the Blue Demons a 68-67 lead with 3:27 left.
DePaul also hung around by dominating the offensive glass, 22-14, and wearing down a Penn State frontline that held its own against Chester and Hampton early.
"Killed us," Washington said. "We talked about doing a better job on the boards, but they got some big second-chance opportunities in the second half."
It was back and forth from there in the frantic final minutes before Hampton's final free throws. She exchanged a high-five with coach Bruno as they jogged off to the locker room.
DePaul's banner season, which already includes program-bests for single-season victories and NCAA seeding, will go on at least another weekend.
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