NCAA Talk

DePaul women fall short of Elite Eight

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DePaul women fall short of Elite Eight

Sunday, March 27, 2011
Posted 4:46 p.m. Updated 5:53 p.m.Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA - The final seconds ticked down, and Duke was set for a celebration. The Blue Devils will get a blockbuster sequel they believe has a better ending than the original

The Blue Devils get a second straight shot at winning a regional final - and a rematch with top-seeded UConn to show how far they've come since an embarrassing loss in January.

Karima Christmas had 23 points and nine rebounds, Jasmine Thomas scored 19 points and the Blue Devils beat DePaul 70-63 on Sunday to reach the regional final for the second straight year.

Duke (32-3) earned a rematch against top-seeded Connecticut on Tuesday night with the Final Four at stake. Maya Moore scored 29 points as UConn surged to a 41-15 halftime lead in an 87-51 win over Duke on Jan. 31.

"That game, we, I can't even explain what happened in the first half," Christmas said. "It just kind of put us in a place where we didn't want to be and didn't expect to be."

The second-seeded Blue Devils did expect a return to the regional final a year after they were bounced out by Baylor. They've won nine straight games and are a win away from their first Final Four since 2006.

"It's really a lot of fun," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "It's not something you reflect on too much right now because you've got a game coming up you've got to get ready for."

Chelsea Gray scored 16 points for the Blue Devils, who raced to a 15-point lead and had to hold on after the big advantage nearly evaporated late in the second half.

DePaul's Deirdre Naughton hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute that cut the lead to three each time, but Gray made four free throws in the final 22 seconds to set up Duke's date with UConn.

The Blue Devils clearly feel they're a different team than the one that faced the Huskies in their first meeting.

"I wouldn't say (they're) vulnerable, but every team has their weakness," Christmas said. "If we try to exploit some things that we've seen that, had they gone wrong last game, we would have been in better shape."

Naughton scored 17 points for DePaul (29-7), which has never played in a regional final.

The Blue Demons had no answer for Christmas on either end of the court. She attacked the lane for easy buckets and got to the free throw line 14 times.

"We had no answer for Christmas," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "We couldn't guard her. Nothing we tried to do could manage her."

Duke coasted until late in the second half, when the Blue Demons were on the brink of pulling off their latest big comeback. Naughton's second 3-pointer of the game in front of a jubilant Blue Demons bench made it 63-60 with 50.4 seconds left. She again delivered a clutch 3, this one with 24.7 seconds remaining to make it 66-63.

It was just too late.

"I think that Duke turned up their defensive intensity and that had a lot to do with it," guard Sam Quigley said. "We needed to be patient.

The Blue Devils survived a 1-for-10 effort from the 3-point line and sealed the win with a 21-for-29 performance on free throws.

The Blue Demons were back in Pennsylvania after winning two games in State College, Pa., to advance to the round of 16 for only the second time in school history.

DePaul, which trailed by 14 last week against Penn State before storming back to win by two, did its best to extend its stay in the Keystone State. Keisha Hampton, Anna Martin and Quigley each hit 3s that trimmed a 15-point hole to 49-42.

Naughton's two free throws made it 57-53 with 2:54 left - a preview of her late-game baskets that nearly gave DePaul a victory.

Bruno led the third-seeded Blue Demons to their highest single-season win total in team history. He lost to a former pupil - McCallie was a summer basketball camp counselor for Bruno during her playing days at Northwestern.

Duke's Blue Devil mascot taped a sign stretched horn-to-horn that read "Demons work 4 me."

For 20 minutes, it was true.

Duke made a habit of slow starts this year, and it nearly cost the Blue Devils in a second-round game against Marist. They needed an 11-0 run in the final minutes to knock off the 10th-seeded Red Foxes.

Not this time. Not with so much on the line.

They used a 20-7 spurt over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take control. The Blue Devils harassed DePaul into 11 turnovers. Balls were stripped on driving layups and Thomas swatted the ball with such force, the "whack!" was heard in the last row of the upper deck.

Hampton was a non-factor in the first half. Hampton, DePaul's leading scorer at 16.1 points, was held to five, giving the Philadelphia native little for her own pocket of fans to cheer for.

UConn's Geno Auriemma stopped Bruno for a small chat outside a locker room before tipoff. Auriemma told him his team was "unbelievable" and he was surprised to learn Hampton was a junior.

"You're definitely the favorites next year," Auriemma told his Big East rival, smiling.

For this week, that title still belongs to the Huskies.

It's up to the Blue Devils to wrest it away.

Box Score

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

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AP

Say it ain't so: DePaul commit Tyger Campbell reopens recruitment

It looks like it was too good to be true.

Tyger Campbell shocked the recruiting world when he committed to DePaul on May 8.

Less than four months later, Campbell has reopened his recruitment.

The Rivals.com four-star point guard out of La Lumiere High School in Indiana, who is the No. 66 prospect in the 2018 Class, took to Twitter Friday night to explain his decision.

One of Campbell's original draws to the Blue Demons was DePaul hiring Shane Heirman as an assistant coach. Heirman coached Campbell for two seasons at La Lumiere.

"I like DePaul and honestly my coach (Shane Heirman) just went there and we have a great connection and he's always had my back," Campbell told Scout.com when he committed to the Blue Demons. "I like [DePaul] coach Dave Leitao, too. I like his program and he's an intelligent guy."

Campbell currently has offers from a handful of D1 schools, including Illinois, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Purdue, SMU, Memphis and Tennessee.

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

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USA TODAY

Upset alert? Why a confident UIC is challenging juggernaut Kentucky

On the heels of a 12-win improvement, UIC basketball is riding confidently into the new season. 

And why shouldn't they be? Head coach Steve McClain returns a young, talented nucleus that's expected to challenge for a Horizon League championship and NCAA Tournament berth. 

In fact, the program is in such good shape that they thought: Let's play Kentucky. 

Yup, that's right. The UIC Flames will match up with the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, a necessary stage in development, according to McClain. 

“Every year you build your program, there’s steps you have to take," McClain said. "When we got the opportunity to go to Kentucky, I think that’s the next level of exposure for our program.

"When you're chasing trying to be great, you gotta show your kids and show people what greatness looks like. I don't think anyone can argue what Kentucky has done, so I want to put our kids in that environment so they see what it is." 

The contrast between programs is severe. UIC hasn't made an NCAA Tournament since 2004. The Wildcats have made 11 since then. UIC has never advanced out of the first round at the Big Dance. Kentucky has eight National Championships. 

Even this upcoming season, as the Flames boast one of their most skilled teams in school history, none of them were ever touted like Kentucky's freshman class, which ranks No. 2 in the nation per ESPN. 

But the disparities in past successes don't seem to bother UIC. Instead, players, who were likely snubbed by bigger schools in recruitment, are excited about the opportunity to compete on a national stage that the Flames rarely see. 

“First I was like, ‘It’s about time we got someone like (Kentucky) on our schedule,’" said center Tai Odiase, one of the few seniors on the roster. "We’ve been trying to play bigger teams to showcase what we’re made of."

“I don’t see why you go into a place like that without a chip on your shoulder. You don’t go in there just to play basketball, we’re trying to win."

UIC will be heavy, heavy underdogs. There's no way around that. But there are certain spots where they may not be at such a disadvantage. 

On the defensive end, Odiase continued to terrorize guards and big men alike, finishing fifth in the NCAA with 2.9 blocks per game. The dynamic guard duo from "The Six," Godwin Boahen and Marcus Ottey, are quick enough to hang and both took a huge step down the stretch last season. Then there's the return of 2015-2016 Horizon League Newcomer of the Year Dikembe Dixson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

"The doctors at times thought he was a freak of nature because he was back as quick as he was," McClain said.  

Still, it's a tune-up game for Kentucky, who also scheduled Kansas, UCLA and Louisville on their non-conference slate. But one team's expected walk through is another team's vital experience. 

"Our guys can walk in and see that on a given night, you can compete with anyone," McClain said. 

Given new athletic director Garrett Klassy's comments at his introductory press conference, it doesn't seem as if games like this are a one-hit wonder for UIC. 

“I am an aggressive scheduler," Klassy said. "I helped with the scheduling at George Washington. We’ll play anyone, anytime, anywhere.

"You want to measure yourself against the best. We have a lot of returning starters. It’ll be nice to go on the road, play a tough game and maybe sneak out an upset."