The DePaul Blue Demons started off strong against the top-ranked UConn Huskies but ultimately ended up like the 62 teams before them as the Huskies extended their streak to 63 straight victories with a 95-62 win.
In 2007 a tip-in attempt at the buzzer by DePaul's Taylor Pikes bounced off the rim and out as top-ranked UConn escaped with a 77-76 win. Tonight, it was a strong team effort that kept DePaul within striking distance in the first half.
"Coach [Auriemma] told us before [tonight's] game that DePaul was going to come out with a lot of energy," UConn's Tina Charles said. "He kept reminding us of the last time we were here where we were behind by 17 [points] and had to grind it out to win that game."
The Huskies (24-0, 11-0 Big East) jumped out to a 23-9 lead with 11:28 to play in the first half before two free throws by DePaul's Sam Quigley (15 points and five assists) cut the lead to 23-13.
Two missed free throws by UConn's All-American, Maya Moore, were followed by a Quigley jumper to make it 31-22. A baseline jumper by the Blue Demons' Keisha Hampton (12 points) brought the home crowd alive and narrowed the deficit to 33-24 with 5:21 remaining.
But a team doesn't win 62 straight games by buckling under pressure, and UConn went on a 19-8 run finished by Tiffany Hayes' 35 footer at the buzzer to give UConn a 52-32 lead.
Hayes, averaging 5.0 ppg in Big East play, had 16 of her 19 points in the first half.
"I feel like if I have the hot hand I am going to keep shooting, so I did."
UConn's defensive pressure was relentless the entire game, forcing 14 turnovers in the first half and 25 for the game to go along with 11 steals for the game. With DePaul shooting 48% from the floor in the first half, those turnovers proved costly.
"The thing [our defense] did best was hopefully to force some turnovers," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "DePaul either scored or they turned it over. They did not miss many shots. We have been holding [teams] to 27 or 28% from the floor and DePaul shot 46% [for the game]. The last team that shot in that range against us was Stanford."
Hayes opened the 2nd half in like fashion with a three-pointer from the top of the key, extending the lead to 55-32. A layup by Tina Charles with 17:15 remaining gave UConn a 61-33 lead and the route was on.
And despite the final score, the Blue Demons saw some light in their efforts against the Huskies.
UConn had the top-ranked defense in the nation before tonight's game, giving up just 44.3 ppg. No team in 213 games against the Huskies has shot better than 50% from the floor against them. DePaul shot 46% from the floor for the game.
"We really believe that this same group of players, a group that has had some inconsistencies this year and some very good moments this year, we still believe we can play our way into the NCAA tournament," DePaul head coach Doug Bruno said.
Felicia Chester recorded a double-double for the Blue Demons with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hampton and Jen Juergens added 12 points each for DePaul.
Hayes and Charles led UConn with 19 points each and Moore added 14 points.
DePaul (16-9, 5-6) travels to South Bend this Sunday to play fourth ranked Notre Dame.
Notes: With Sunday's game, DePaul will have played the #1, #2 and #4 ranked teams in the country this year. All 63 UConn wins have been by double digits, and the last six have been by at least 30 points.
DePaul Falls to No. 1 UConn
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