Courtney Walker scored a game-high 25 points and Texas A&M placed all five starters in double figures in its 84-65 win over DePaul in the NCAA Lincoln Regional semi-finals.
The attendance of 9,595 at Pinnacle Bank Arena was the largest crowd to see a women's basketball NCAA Tournament session this year.
DePaul (29-7) moved into its third ever Sweet Sixteen by beating Duke and its zone defense. The Aggies bypassed a zone in favor of a man-to-man defense and it served them well.
Texas A&M is twenty first in the country in field goal percentage defense at 36.3 percent, fifth in three-point field goal defense at 26.1 percent, and twenty eight in scoring defense at 59.2 ppg.
DePaul had been averaging 89.0 ppg in tourney, tied with Connecticut for second highest average in the NCAA Tournament.
"I probably did the classic example of way over thinking instead of coming out after [teams] like we did all year," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. "I was a little bit conservative. I thought we should respect their speed and quickness. We got it going, but we got it going too late."
DePaul's Megan Rogowski did not attempt her first field goal until 12:28 of the first half, a three-pointer that cut the Aggie lead to 13-7. Two jumpers by Walker, including one from the right corner as the shot clock expired, upped the Aggie lead to 22-11.
Rogowski's jumper cut the lead to 20-16 with seven minutes left before the Aggies closed the half on a 16-4 run, making eight of their last nine shots, en route to a 38-24 lead. DePaul's twenty four points was the second lowest first output in the school's NCAA Tournament history.
"The pace of the play favored us because I think I had a little bit better bench, particularly at the guard position and I was able to rotate some of my big players in," said A&M coach Gary Blair. Blair is the only Division I women's basketball coach to take two separate programs, Arkansas and A&M, to the Final Four. His 2011 A&M team won the national title in 2011.
Walker guarded DePaul's Brittany Hrynko for most of the game and Jordan Jones guarded Chanise Jenkins. Hrynko and Jenkins shot a combined 2-12 from the field.
A&M shot 60.0 percent from the field in the first half and for the game. It was the highest field goal percentage for the Aggies this season, and its highest percentage in an NCAA Tournament for them.
Jasmine Penny scored a team-high 24 points for DePaul.
"[Karla Gilbert] had trouble guarding Penny," said Blair. "She does a good job of jumping in to you and drawing the foul and she basically fouled out two of our players."
Penny opened the second half with a three-point play, but the Aggies answered with a 13-4 run and a 51-31 lead.
DePaul twice got to within thirteen points in the second half, but A&M, especially Walker, was able counter every run.
A&M (27-8) held its largest lead of 22 points with 14:49 to play. Penny's put back off a Rogowski miss cut the lead to 57-44 at 11:30. A layup by Jessica January with 5:32 to play cut the A&M lead to 68-58, the closest DePaul would get the rest of the game.
Rogowski added 14 points for DePaul and Megan Podkowa, who has scored in double digits in five of the last six games, added 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.
DePaul shot 40.3 percent from the floor for the game, and after draining fourteen three-pointers versus Duke, shot just 4-20 from behind the arc.
Penny shot 10-16 from the floor and she finishes her career at DePaul with 1,417 points, good for seventeenth all-time at DePaul. She finishes fifth all-time at DePaul in field goal percentage at 54.4.
DePaul had played A&M one other time, beating the Aggies 84-71 in 2005.
One question that teams short of a national title invariably ask themselves is this: "Was this a season of absolutes or of relatives?" The answer for this year's DePaul team is "both."
The team tied the 2011 squad for most wins in a single season at DePaul. They set season records for most points scored (3,006), field goals made (1,085), and assists (705).
And for seniors Penny, Kelsey Reynolds, and Kelsey Smith, it was an opportunity to be a part of a family, and to play for a man that made them feel like family.
"Coach Bruno has been one of the best coaches who has ever coached me," said Penny. "I played with some amazing people throughout my four years."
Basketball is almost always measured solely by numbers, but a closer look inside the game indicates that sometimes it can't be measured by a game clock or a final score.
"We have always had great people in our program, but this has been a special group," said Bruno. "They did everything we asked them to do this year."
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