Deirde Naughton keyed a furious DePaul rally over the the last six minutes, but the Blue Demons fell short in their quest to get to the first Elite Eight in program history, losing to Duke 70-63, in the semi-finals of the Philadelphia Regional Sunday afternoon.
Keisha Hampton fouling out with just over six minutes left in the game was probably the last thing the DePaul fans at the Liacouras Center wanted to see, but thanks to Naughton those fans still had plenty to yell about.
"I think when Keisha [Hampton] got her fifth foul, we all really came together," Naughton said. "It was a time we could have folded, but we all decided that each of us really needed to step up, offensively especially, because that is what Keisha does at the end of every game."
With Hampton gone and Duke leading 55-46 with 6:36 left, Naughton scored on a lay up, made two free throws, assisted on a lay up by Felicia Chester (11 points, team-high nine rebounds), converted another lay up and drained a three pointer from the right wing with :24 remaining to close the gap to 66-63.
Duke shot 7-8 from the line in the last 45 seconds to secure the win.
For a team that ended up out-shooting Duke 40% to 38% from the floor and 43% to 10% from behind the arc for the game, the first half was a rough one for the Blue Demons.
"I think Duke obviously turned up its defensive intensity," said Sam Quigley (11 points, team-high five assists). "And we weren't really patient on offense."
Karima Christmas scored 14 first half points on 5-8 shooting as Duke led 41-28 at the break. Duke's 26 points in the paint in the first half were part of a 40-20 overall advantage in the paint for the Blue Devils.
Christmas ended with a game-high 23 points.
The Blue Demons played without Big East Sixth Man of the Year Taylor Pikes, who sat out with an ankle injury she sustained in the Penn State game.
Hampton, playing a few blocks from where she attended high school, finished with 11 points and five rebounds.
"[Hampton] is a great player," said Christmas. "She can shoot, she can go low inside, and she plays multiple positions."
DePaul started the second half on a 11-2 run led by five points from Hampton to close to 43-39 with 12:39 remaining. Duke pushed its lead back up to 11 before Naughton caught fire.
"[At halftime] we talked about not rushing it, taking quality shots and trying to chip away our deficit little by little," said Chester. "At the first media [timeout] to try to have the deficit at nine points and then seven points and slowly work our way up."
Naughton scored a team-high 17 points off the bench on 6-10 shooting.
"Every one was in tears [after the game]," said Naughton. "We were not happy with the way it ended, but it has been an unbelievable season and career."
DePaul finishes with a school-best record of 29-7.
Connecticut beat Georgetown in the other regional semifinal, 68-63, to advance to Tuesday night's Regional final versus Duke (32-3).