DePaul 75, Penn St. 73
She was 2 for 3 from the foul line with 4.9 seconds left—those two free throws gave the third-seeded Blue Demons a thrilling 75-73 win over the Lady Lions.
Hampton 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 DePaul rallied from 14 points down to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2006.
“Every shot was important to me,” the junior forward said. “I don’t know I was just confident in the second half. I felt like I just couldn’t miss at one point.”
Penn State’s season ended with a missed desperation heave from senior Julia Trogele from near halfcourt at the buzzer. Trogele, a senior, had 14 points and 11 rebounds in her final game at the Jordan Center.
Not exactly a neutral NCAA tournament site, with a decidedly pro-Penn State crowd whooping it up in the stands. The Blue Demons (29-6) won a hard-earned trip back to Pennsylvania to play Duke in the regional semis Sunday 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 her free throws, though, jumping in on a double team of Penn State’s Alex Bentley on the ensuing inbound play to whittle precious seconds off the clock before Trogele’s missed shot.
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, and Bentley was whistled for a foul after Hampton went up from behind the arc.
She missed the shot, but hit two of the three critical free throws. The designed play to Bentley fell apart, and Penn State lost its 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 about DePaul’s offensive rebounding. “We talked about doing a better job on the boards, but they got some big second-chance opportunities in the second half.”
And DePaul’s banner season, which already includes program-bests for single-season victories and NCAA seeding, will go on at least another weekend.