DePaul freshman Keisha Hampton and some late clutch three-point shooting from Deirdre Naughton and China Threatt helped the Demons (15-5, 3-3) upset the Scarlet Knights 60-58 in front of a sold-out crowd at McGrath Arena on Saturday night.
Hampton scored 12 first half points and finished with 18 before fouling out with 33 seconds remaining in the contest.
Rutgers, (11-6, 3-3) ranked #4 nationally in defense giving up just 52.5 points per contest, showed why as they led 18-17 with 5:00 to play. Neither team led by more than five points the entire game.
Six points by Hampton helped give the Demons a 30-26 lead before Rutgers' Brittany Ray scored five points in the last 56 seconds to give the Scarlet Knights a 31-30 halftime lead.
And what ended badly in the first half for the Demons would get even worse for them in the second half when their second leader scorer and best defender, Natasha Williams, went down with a left knee injury with 19:31 remaining. She did not return. Williams had held Rutgers' leading scoring, Epiphanny Prince, to five first half points.
"I am always impressed with the players when you win a game like this because it comes down to the people on the floor," said DePaul head coach Doug Bruno. "Our players did a very good job of overcoming the adversity of losing a player (Williams) that has been very key for us."
And when Rutgers went up 52-48 on a jumper by Heather Zurich with 6:12 left to play, it seemed that the Scarlet Knights' vaunted defense might be enough for the win.
But great shooters never stop shooting.
And that was never more true tonight than at the 3:27 mark when Naughton sent the McGrath crowd into a frenzy by draining a three to put DePaul up 53-52.
"I was struggling all game (1-7 from the floor), but when I got that three I knew it needed to go in."
Rutgers was not finished. A putback by Prince off her own missed free throw gave the lead back to Rutgers at 54-53 with 1:09 remaining.
With 51 seconds left, Threatt found herself open on the right wing and nailed a three-pointer to put DePaul up for good 56-54.
"Usually I first look to pass, but I saw that I was open, so I took it."
Four free throws by Naughton in the final 16 seconds proved huge as Prince sank a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Threatt scored 15 and Naughton added 10. Felicia Chester contributed eight points and 11 rebounds to the win.
"You would like to believe that a loss like this helps you get ready for the tournament, but we have lost enough games to be ready for the tournament," said Rutgers' head coach C. Vivian Stringer. "We don't need to lose anymore. We need to win so that we know how to win at the end. We don't seem to be able to have everybody hitting on the same cylinder at the same time."
Prince, who had managed six straight 20+ point games, was held to 15 points.
Ray led Rutgers with 20 points. Kia Vaughn, Rutgers' leading rebounder, picked up her third foul early in the second half and finished with no points and two rebounds.
Coaches Bruno and Stringer have combined for 1244 collegiate victories.
Rutgers now leads the series 3-2, with both losses coming at McGrath Arena.
DePaul's next game is this Tuesday at St. Johns.
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