CHICAGO (AP) — Keisha Hampton has been to the NCAA tournament and has come home a first-round loser along with the rest of her DePaul teammates the past two years.
She’s tired of it.
“The first two tournament games (2009 and 2010) we lost because we didn’t defend anybody and we didn’t rebound,” said Hampton, who leads the Blue Demons in scoring at 16 points per game. “Last year, after we lost to Vanderbilt, coach (Doug Bruno) made an emphasis that we were going to defend and rebound (this year). That’s how we’re going to win in March.”
DePaul (27-6) tied a school record for victories this season and takes a lofty No. 3 seed into Saturday’s NCAA tournament game against Patriot League champion Navy (20-10) in University Park, Pa.
The Blue Demons beat six ranked teams this season, including then-No. 2 Stanford, and finished second in the tough Big East. Their best previous seed was a No. 4 in 2006.
“The No. 3 seed put an exclamation point on the regular season,” Bruno said. “Now the real season, the postseason, starts in earnest. Now we have to go out and win.”
DePaul has made nine straight NCAA tourney trips and 16 overall since 1990. The Blue Demons reached the second round six times, but haven’t won a first-round game in five years.
DePaul also relies on senior Felicia Chester (11.3 points per game), sophomore Anna Martin (10.9) and senior Sam Quigley (10.3). Reserve Taylor Pikes (7.4 points) was the league’s top sixth man.
But it starts with Hampton, an unanimous All-Big East first-team selection who has made 56 3-pointers this season. Bruno believes her best games are still to come.
“She’s a multitalented and multifaceted player,” Bruno said. “She’s a slow-simmering stew who’s been getting better and better with every single game.”
A victory over Navy would be a school-record 28th. But Bruno isn’t taking the Midshipmen lightly.
“They play with the toughness and intelligence you would expect out of leaders in our military,” Bruno said. “Angela Myers, it starts with her, and they’ve got a very special freshman who’s moving along in Jade Geif. And Cassie Consedine is also tough.”
Myers averages 12.2 points to lead Navy, while Consedine is next at 11.4. Geif adds 9.5 per game and leads her team with 7.8 rebounds.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)