DePaul's Hampton Hoping for Happy Homecoming
March 25, 2011
CHICAGO - Keisha Hampton would like nothing better than to put a personal touch on her very own Philadelphia story.
Hampton will be playing right across the street from her high school on Sunday when third-seeded DePaul (29-6) takes on No. 2-seeded Duke (31-3) in an NCAA Sweet 16 women's basketball matchup at the Liacouras Center in the City of Brotherly Love.
Tipoff is 1:30 p.m., and the showdown will be televised on ESPN2.
"I'm definitely excited about going home to play, and it's only a 20-minute drive from my house to the game," Hampton said. "There will be lots of family and friends---probably around 50 people or more---coming to see me play.
"What's so good about my hometown? Well, everybody knows about Philly cheese steaks and the Rocky statue. It's just everything about the city, the atmosphere and the people.
"I'm going to show my teammates the best of Philadelphia."
And she'd also like to show Philadelphia the best of Keisha Hampton.
"Keisha's game is in takeover mode," said DePaul coach Doug Bruno after his junior forward scored 26 points in last Sunday's dramatic 75-73 come-from-behind victory over Penn State. "In the second half, Keisha put us on her back and carried the team."
Sam Quigley described how DePaul calmly and systematically eradicated Penn State's 14-point lead in the second half.
"Our plan was to get the deficit down to eight points by the 12-minute mark," said Quigley, who is a finalist for the State Farm All-American Team along with Hampton. "Then, down to six points by the eight-minute mark. After that, down to four by the four-minute mark.
"Nobody panicked, and all of our experience helped. So many of us have been through the NCAA tournament before, and we understand how a game can be taken over."
The Blue Demons have yet to unveil their fast-moving, free-flowing, high-scoring attack in the tournament, and Bruno knows why.
"I knew our players were going to be tight against Navy," the DePaul coach said. "They all wanted a first-round win so badly (first in six years).
"We haven't shot well, and the NCAA tournament is a time when defense and rebounding have to prevail. It becomes a scrum tournament, and you find the will to battle when your shots aren't falling."
While hoping his players regain their shooting touch against Duke, Bruno also wants them to maintain that will to survive.
"During the Penn State game, our players stayed positive and there was no fear of adversity," Bruno said. "And I can tell you that when adversity hits, it comes at you quickly and from so many directions.
"But that's how you develop mental toughness---overcoming a deficit and making the key plays in a game.
"That's when our team is at its best."
Quigley has an idea how to chase away some of those NCAA nerves.
"I want to let my teammates know that even though this is the NCAA tournament, it's still a lot of fun," Quigley said. "None of us have ever been to the Sweet 16 before, so let's enjoy it.
"And this next game, we are the underdogs. We are not expected to win. So, just give everything you have and let's keep our season going."
Duke poses quite a challenge with a foursome of McDonald's All-Americans led by Jasmine Thomas, one of the best guards in the nation.
"Jasmine is a great lead guard who took us to the 19-and-under world championship in 2007," Bruno said. "She is a talented, gifted combo guard who is a great scorer and can also distribute so well. She also has great quickness and athleticism on defense."
Bruno describes Thomas' backcourt mate Chelsea Gray as "another great guard who is long, athletic, quick and disciplined." Gray scored 13 points in helping the Blue Devils rally to a 71-66 win over No. 10-seeded Marist last Sunday.
Duke's other two McDonald's All-Americans are 6-foot, 5-inch Krystal Thomas and 6-3 freshman Haley Peters.
This will be the third meeting between DePaul and Duke. The Blue Devils prevailed 70-56 on March 14, 1987 at an NCAA tournament first-round game in Champaign. DePaul came away with a 78-72 regular-season win on Nov. 29, 1986.
Will Hampton feel like she has to light up Liacouras Center on Sunday?
"No, there won't be any extra pressure on me playing in front of a home-town crowd," Hampton said. "I'm just going to play like always and do whatever my team needs from me.
"All of us try not to think about tournament pressure. We have to play our style of game because that's what brought us to the Sweet 16.
"This is who we are."
(This Sunday--March 27--the Blue Demons tangle with Duke at 2:30 p.m. (ET) at the Liacouras Center.
You are invited to celebrate with fellow DePaul basketball fans at a special pre-game reception for alumni, friends and family. The reception begins 90 minutes before tip and will take place on Temple's campus at the Diamond Club, 1913 North Broad Street, located inside Mitten Hall (click here to view a map of the campus). There will be a FREE buffet for all guests and a cash bar.
Parking is available at the visitors lot on Montgomery Avenue and 15th Street, across from the Liacouras Center. It is encouraged that all guests park prior to entering the reception--the Diamond Club is located about two blocks from the arena.
If you are on the player/coach pass list, please go to the DePaul will call AFTER the reception--you will not be able to leave the arena once you obtain your ticket(s) from Marty Murphy at Will Call).