COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- DePaul had blown a seemingly insurmountable lead and trailed by one point with one last chance to avoid an embarrassing upset.
Jenni Dant had the choice of taking the last shot or passing it to Allie Quigley. Dant opted to keep it, a decision that proved to be as sound as her winning shot.Dant hit a jumper in the lane with 4.9 seconds left and DePaul escaped with a 79-78 victory over Virginia Tech on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.The fifth-seeded Blue Demons led 35-15 in the first half and 47-30 with 17:48 left but needed a late comeback -- and a great play by Dant -- to dispatch the 12th-seeded Hokies.After a foul shot by Virginia Tech's Kirby Copeland put the Hokies up 78-77 with 33 seconds left, Dant brought the ball up, waited near midcourt as the clock wound down and then drove the lane before launching a runner that went in."We had practiced clock management at the end of the game situations all week, just in case," Dant said. "I took it upon myself to try and go inside and get a basket, if not a foul call. I was going strong to my left. I really wanted to finish."Dant and Quigley scored 22 points apiece and Khara Smith had 15 points and 13 rebounds for DePaul (26-4), which overcame 24 turnovers.The Blue Demons will play 13th-seeded Liberty in the second round. Liberty beat fourth-seeded Penn State 78-70.After Dant's shot, Virginia Tech committed the last of its 15 turnovers, ruining a spirited comeback against the 17th-ranked team in the nation. The Hokies outscored DePaul 53-37 in the second half after allowing the Blue Demons to shoot 59 percent in the opening 20 minutes."I think we were out of rhythm on the offensive end in the first half," Tech's Erin Gibson said. "But we full-court pressured them and slowed them down."Dawn Chriss led the Hokies (17-12) with 20 points and Copeland had 15.DePaul wasted no time in utilizing an attack that came in averaging 82.9 points per game, best in the nation. After spotting Virginia Tech the opening basket, the Demons used 7-for-11 shooting to go up 18-4 with just under seven minutes elapsed.An 8-2 run made it 26-8, and the margin increased to 20 with 13 minutes gone. But things turned around in the second half."We've kind of been in this predicament before," Chriss said. "We tried to keep it positive. Everyone just played hard in the second half."DePaul's 42-25 halftime lead shrunk to 12 before a three-point play by Gibson ignited an 8-0 spurt that brought Virginia Tech to 53-49.DePaul then built its lead back to eight, but the Hokies used another 8-0 spree to pull even with 10:45 left. Minutes later, two free throws by Copeland capped a collective 33-13 run that put Virginia Tech up 63-60 with 8:04 to go.The Hokies didn't commit their first turnover until the 10:27 mark of the second half. By that time, DePaul had 11."I don't think that we panicked," Smith said. "I just think that they played very hard in the second half. We were able to stay together and pull out the victory."