Jessica January scored a game-high and season-high 25 points and sixth-seeded DePaul upset third-seeded Louisville 73-72 at the KFC YUM! Center on Sunday, advancing to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years.
The last minute of the game for DePaul could hardly have differed more than the first minute, with the Blue Demons' Brooke Schulte passing the ball the wrong direction on the opening tip and the Blue Demons being called for a back court violation.
But that final minute had DePaul going in the right direction.
Louisville's Mariya Moore's free throw cut DePaul's lead to 71-70 with 2:26 to play. DePaul's Chanise Jenkins then made one of two free throws with 30 seconds left. The Cardinals' Briahanna Jackson's reverse layup then sent the partisan crowd of 17,515 into a frenzy and probably dreaming of Louisville's fourth straight Sweet 16 appearance. January then went to the line for two shots, barely grazing the front of the rim on the first shot and sinking the second one for a 73-72 DePaul lead with 14 seconds left.
DePaul is averaging 81.4 ppg, but it was a defensive play by Chanise Jenkins that turned the crowd's frenzy into verbal disappointment as she took a charge on Myisha Hines-Allen at the free throw line with 1.7 seconds left.
"I had [Arica Carter] in the corner and I saw Jessica January guarding [Asia] Durr, who was on the left wing," Jenkins said. "It was my initial thought to get to help side, so I started inching over there. I then saw Hines-Allen and that she was about to try and drive, so I stepped in and took the charge."
"I had nothing but positive thoughts [the last two minutes]" January said. "We came that far and played so well, we just needed to finish it out and trust in our two senior captains [Jenkins and Megan Podkowa]."
Jenkins finished with 12 points, moving her into twelfth place all-time at DePaul with 1,583 points.
Podkowa was in foul trouble most of the game and picked up her fourth foul with 5:07 left in the third quarter. She finished with six points in 20 minutes of play.
"I don't think it is that hard [going in and out of the game] when you have a coaching staff that really believes in you," Podkowa said. "Every time I left the game, the staff was encouraging me and getting me ready to go.
DePaul (27-8) finished the game 0-6 and 1-8 from the field and did not score a field goal in the final 4:52.
Louisville (26-8) imposed its will and its height early on, jumping out to a 7-0 lead and forcing a DePaul timeout.
"When we came to the huddle [early on] we talked about how we did not execute anything and we did not box out anyone," Jenkins said.
January's layup 90 seconds later got DePaul on the board.
Moore's layup closed the gap to 34-31 with 2:32 left in the half before January reeled off six straight points. January scored 18 points and had five assists in the first half.
Hines-Allen had 10 first half points, and after a field goal at 2:16 of the first quarter, was held scoreless until 3:25 of the third quarter.
Jackson's jumper with 5:18 to play cut DePaul's lead to 67-65 before Ashton Millender answered with a baseline jumper. Millender shot 5-5 from the field and had 12 points in 29 minutes.
[Playing well] is about being confident in yourself and being ready to knock the shot down, take the charge, or get the rebound," Millender said.
"Every time we had a defensive breakdown we got scored upon," Louisville coach Jeff Walz said.
January's three-point play with 8:36 to play gave DePaul its biggest lead at 65-55. She moved into 28th place in scoring at DePaul at 1,210 points.
"They did what they had to do," Walz said.
DePaul had just nine turnovers today. The Cardinals had been forcing opponents into 18.73 turnovers per game and had converted them into 21.3 ppg, nearly 30 percent of their offense. Louisville scored just 13 points off turnovers today.
The Blue Demons were facing Louisville for the first time in the NCAA tournament. The teams played in Conference USA (1995-2005) and in the BIG EAST (2005-2014). DePaul now leads the series 17-15. The Cardinals had won five straight against DePaul on the former's home court, including three straight at the KFC YUM! Center.
The win today sets a DePaul record for consecutive road wins at 11. The Blue Demons' 27 wins ties them with the 1987, 2005, and 2014 teams for third most in school history. DePaul had 14 assists today, and its 21.0 average per game before today was the best average in school history.
The Blue Demons have beaten four Top 25 teams this year, all on the road.
DePaul plays the winner of the Oregon State/St. Bonaventure game this Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.