The DePaul Blue Demons (28-6, 13-3 Big East) and the Duke Blue Devils (31-3, 12-2 ACC) have met two times previously, in 1987 and 1997, with DePaul winning the first meeting and Blue Devils triumphing in the second matchup. The two teams were on track to play one another in the DePaul Invitational in 2008, but Duke was upset by Hartford in the semi-finals.
The third match up, this Sunday in Philadelphia at 1:30 CST, will be a charm for only one of the teams.
DePaul's Numbers (3 seed)
The Blue Demons are led by junior forward Keisha Hampton (16.0 ppg, First Team All-Big East). Hampton's athleticism allows her to be effective on offense either on the wing or down low. As evidenced against Penn State, she has the ability to take over a game offensively.
DePaul places three other players in double figures: senior center Felicia Chester (11.3 ppg), sophomore guard Anna Martin (10.9 ppg) and senior guard Sam Quigley (10.3). Chester leads the team in rebounding at 6.5 rpg and Quigley leads the team in assists with 3.9 apg.
The Blue Demons also rely on sophomore forward Katherine Harry, who leads the team in blocked shots with 57, junior forward Taylor Pikes (7.4 ppg) and senior guard Deirdre Naughton (5.8 ppg).
Averaging 74.4 ppg, DePaul holds its opponents to an average of 59.8 ppg. DePaul shoots 45% from the field and 35% from behind the arc. DePaul averages 37.9 rebounds per game and 10.5 steals per game. The Blue Demons shoot 69% from the line.
Duke's Numbers (2 seed)
The Blue Devils are led by senior guard Jasmine Thomas, a two-time ACC tournament MVP. Thomas is averaging 14.9 ppg and has accounted for 22% of her team's 518 assists. She became only the fourth Blue Devil to score over 1,300 points, grab 400 rebounds, notch 400 assists, make 200 steals and block 50 shots. In 47 career games against ranked opponents, Thomas has scored in double figures in 35 of those games.
Senior forward Karima Christmas is averaging 9.2 ppg and 6'5" senior center Krystal Thomas averages 8.1 ppg. Thomas leads Duke in rebounding with 8.4 rpg. Freshman guard Chelsea Gray averages 8.7 ppg.
The Blue Devils average 71.4 ppg and hold their opponents to an average of 54.9 ppg. Duke shoots 42% from the field and 35% from behind the arc. The team averages 42.4 rebounds per game and 12.5 steals per game. Duke shoots 64% from the line.
Duke jumped out to a 20-0 record this season before losing 87-51 to No. 1 UConn. After a 82-58 win at No. 18 Miami, the Blue Devils lost 62-60 to No. 13 North Carolina. That pattern continued for Duke with a win against Boston College and then another loss, this time to No. 16 Maryland, 69-47. All three losses have been away games.
How DePaul Wins
Scores a lot of points. The Blue Demons are 21-0 this year when scoring 70 or more points.
Passes the ball. DePaul is sixth in the country in assists, averaging 17.7 per game. The Blue Demons had 16 assists in their win against No. 2 Stanford and 20 assists in their win against No. 8. West Virginia. DePaul went over the 600 assist mark this year for the second time in school history.
Establishes the outside game. DePaul shot 3-15 from behind the arc against Navy and 8-29 from behind the arc against Penn State. Quigley and Martin shot a combined average of 37% from behind the arc this year, but the duo was 0-9 from three-point land in the Navy game. Should Thomas be able to disrupt DePaul's backcourt, it could be a long Sunday afternoon for the Blue Demons.
Continues to establish the inside game. Chester has to continue to perform well in the post and not only score points, but neutralize Thomas as well. Chester's double-double against Navy and her play against Penn State are arguably the reasons why DePaul is still alive. If Chester continues to play as well as she has been, and the outside game is on, Duke will have to pick its poison.
Hampton plays like Hampton. She doesn't need to score 26 points every night for DePaul to win, but she does need to bring her athleticism.
Runs the floor. DePaul's best game this year was its 20-point win against Stanford, a game where the Blue Demons had the Cardinal on its heels defensively for forty minutes. DePaul plays best when it gets out and runs, something it had difficulty doing against Navy.
Makes free throws. DePaul shot 37% from the line against Navy and 56% against Penn State. Every point counts in every game, but even more so at this point.
How Duke Wins
Thomas plays like Thomas. She is such a dynamic force offensively and defensively, if DePaul cannot slow her down on both ends, it will likely be Duke that goes to the Elite Eight.
Grinds down. Duke has 10 players that average at least 12.5 minutes per game and have reached double figures in scoring at least once this season.
Brings heart. Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said after the loss to UConn, "I am about the process and the fight, and we had no fight." Said Thomas after the North Carolina loss: "You can't keep coming out and saying your team is not playing with enough heart, you're not fighting enough. That is something you should not have to to coach, you should not have to demand from a team."
Makes free throws. Duke shot 64% from the line in its loss to Connecticut and 50% in its loss to North Carolina.