DePaul Dodges Gators to Advance to WNIT Final

CHICAGO- For Florida women's basketball coach Amanda Butler, the first half could not go fast enough. For DePaul coach Doug Bruno, the second half could not go slow enough. And in the end, one coach wished for a few more seconds and the other one was happy with no time on the clock.

DePaul (3-0) survived a last second attempt by Florida (2-1) to beat the Gators 74-73 Thursday night on Doug Bruno Court to move on to the preseason WNIT championship game Sunday against Purdue.

For the Blue Demons, this game was a far cry from their prior two WNIT games which they won by an average margin of 23.5 points.

"Some of the things we did in the first half were surreal," Bruno said. "We were a colossal mess regarding focus."

For the Gators, 15-17 last year, this was a chance to show that they might belong to that bigger tournament at the end of the season.

"We will take a lot of confidence from what we were almost able to complete tonight," Butler said. "We talked before the game that [DePaul] is an NCAA tournament team, and I think we are an NCAA tournament team."

And for the first 20 minutes the Gators were proof positive.

Florida jumped out to a 10-2 lead while shooting 78% from the field in the first five minutes.

A three-pointer from DePaul's Keisha Hampton (game high 19 points) knotted the score at 40 with 2:05 left in the first half, but Florida answered with a three by Lily Svete- her only points of the game- with 1/10 of a second left to give the Gators a 45-40 lead at the half. Hampton, averaging 18.5 ppg this season, scored 15 in the first half.

"Giving up 45 points at halftime is not what we are about, so we knew we had to slow the game down in the second half," Bruno said.

And DePaul slowed the game down by speeding up offensively.

The Blue Demons' Katherine Harry (eight points and six rebounds) hit one jumper and then another one to cut the Florida lead to 45-44. Her steal and pass to Felicia Chester for a lay up gave DePaul its first lead at 48-47 with 17:45 remaining.

Neither team then led by by more than three points until a jumper by Lanita Bartley and a lay up by Jennifer George gave Florida a 66-59 lead at 8:27.

With 2:52 left, Harry hit a 15 footer to move DePaul ahead 73-72. Hampton then hit one of two free throws to tie the game at 73 with 1:21 left to play.

A shot clock violation by the Gators on their next possession set the stage for DePaul's Anna Martin (16 points), but the sophomore missed a jumper from the right corner and then missed again from the right wing on the same possession. Chester grabbed the rebound and Hampton was fouled on a drive to the basket with six seconds to play.

Hampton made one of two free throws to give DePaul a 74-73 lead and set up what would become the one second that seemed to last an eternity for both coaches.

The Gators inbounded the ball to Bartley who drove the sideline the length of the court. DePaul, with two fouls to give, fouled her as she drove the lane.

"We wanted to foul before she ever got a head of steam up and we did not get the foul committed nearly as early as we wanted to," Bruno said.

China Threatt's foul on Bartley was ruled a non-shooting foul.

Florida, inbounding the ball with 1/10 of a second to play, lobbed to Kayla Lewis who caught the pass on the left side of the rim and scored, with the ball appearing to have left her hand before the game clock expired. The pandemonium on the Gators' bench was short lived, however.

The officials waved the basket off basis a NCAA women's rule that states that with 3/10 of a second or less left the ball must be tipped in and not caught and then shot.

Sam Quigley scored 16 points for DePaul and she moved into fifth place on DePaul's career assist list.

Jordan Jones led Florida with 14 points.

DePaul plays at Purdue Sunday 1:00 CST.

Notes:

- DePaul has now won 58 straight at home versus unranked non-conference opponents.

- DePaul was the only team in the WNIT to win a road game.


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