DePaul advances to 2nd round for first time in five years

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- DePaul's players stood attentively several feet behind Navy's team as the band played the service academy's alma mater.

A sign of respect from the Blue Demons after the underdogs from the Patriot League gave the Big East power a scare in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Felicia Chester had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Katherine Harry added 10 points and a couple big second-half buckets to help third-seeded DePaul (28-6) advance to the tourney's second round for the first time in five years with a 56-43 win over No. 14 seed Navy.

It was a victory that was far from easy.

Lacking in height and athleticism, Navy never backed down. It wasn't until the game's closing minutes, after turning up the defense, that the Blue Demons finally breathed easy.

"They wanted a slow tempo, and a slow tempo is to their advantage. We wanted to speed it up and we were able to speed it up through the energy of our players," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "We were able to wear Navy down."

Patriot League freshman of the year Jade Geif led Navy (20-12) with 14 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out, while Angela Myers added 13 points.

DePaul will play No. 6 seed Penn State, a 75-66 winner over Dayton, on Monday night in a matchup of teams averaging more than 70 points a game.

It makes what Navy (20-12) did to hang close to DePaul for much of Saturday afternoon so impressive -- the same DePaul team that beat nationally ranked Stanford by 20 points in December.

The Midshipmen didn't look like a team making its first appearance in the tourney.

"Our coaches really stressed to us the intensity they were going to have, their desire," Harry said about the Midshipmen. "You expect that from who is leading our nation. ... They really fought all the way through the very last buzzer."

DePaul held advantages in size and athleticism, but hustling Navy matched them step-for-step anyway until the latter part of the second half. Navy led briefly, 30-29, with roughly 16 minutes left on Alix Membrano's 3-pointer before the Blue Demons slowly pulled away.

DePaul turned up the defensive pressure down the stretch and forced 23 turnovers on the afternoon. Offensively, Bruno said they tried to break down Navy with dribble penetration.

It worked, and DePaul closed the game out with a 15-3 run.

"I wasn't surprised that DePaul had a little different notch," Navy coach Stefanie Pemper said. "We struggled sometimes just to get space to operate."

Still, Navy played with poise and didn't panic on the floor in spite of the late turnovers.

"The one thing that changed the game was their press," Pemper said. "No one had ever done that to us, so it was a little bit of an unknown."

The 6-foot-3 Harry, the third member of DePaul's formidable frontcourt along with the 6-foot-3 Chester and 6-foot-2 Keisha Hampton, converted an offensive rebound, then hit from 15 feet to make it 54-43 with 3:36 left.

Hampton, an All-Big East selection, finished with nine points and five boards, while Anna Martin scored 10.

Navy came tantalizingly close for a while from upsetting a high seed. The Midshipmen got inspiration from Pemper and her experience as an assistant at Harvard, when the Crimson became the first and only 16 seed in the men's or women's tournament to win a first-round game with a victory over Stanford in 1998.