CHICAGO (AP) -- Top-ranked Connecticut was ready to fall. The Huskies trailed DePaul by 17 in the second half Saturday night and were on the verge of being blown out of the cozy and noisy 3,000-seat McGrath Arena.
But as Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno painfully pointed out after UConn rallied for a 77-76 victory, "They're No. 1 for a reason."
Turning up the defense, the Huskies got back in the game and then used a big steal from Maya Moore and a go-ahead layup by Ketia Swanier with 1.6 seconds left to finally subdue the Blue Demons.
"That's why playing games like this at the end of the year is unbelievable," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Everybody's got something at stake. This was a bunch of kids at their best tonight. It doesn't get better than that."
The Huskies (28-1, 14-1) close the season at home Monday against Rutgers -- the only team to beat UConn this season -- with the winner claiming the Big East regular-season title.
DePaul (18-10, 7-8) hopes to win its regular season finale at Seton Hall and then do well enough in the conference tournament to get an NCAA Tournament bid.
After DePaul let its huge lead get away, Allie Quigley's baseline jumper with 30.9 seconds to go put the Blue Demons ahead 76-74.
After a UConn timeout, Renee Montgomery attempted a 3-pointer but Quigley fouled her with 14.6 seconds left. Montgomery missed the first free throw, made the second and then missed the third.
"That was not a 3-point foul. That was a foul on the floor and that's a fact," Bruno said. "I don't need to see the tape. ... I'm glad they made one out of three, but the first one was a miss and it should have been a one-and one."
In a scramble after Montgomery missed the third free throw, the ball was knocked out to DePaul's Missy Mitidiero, who raced ahead toward the Blue Demons' basket with the clock racing down.
But Moore came from behind to steal the ball and call a timeout with 7 seconds left.
"I don't think there's anybody in the building who didn't think the game was over when they're dribbling down the floor ready to run out the clock. But Maya Moore didn't think the game was over," Auriemma said. "That gave Ketia a chance to make her play."
Swanier then drove the floor and through the lane for a layup with 1.6 seconds left putting the Huskies up 77-76.
"I got the ball, looked up and my first thought was to use my speed to try and do something," Swanier said.
On the inbounds pass, the ball was knocked out of bounds and after officials reviewed the play, 1.4 seconds was restored and DePaul got the ball at midcourt. A long pass under the basket was knocked out of bounds and officials again went to review how much time was left.
DePaul then got possession under its basket with 0.6 left but Taylor Pikes' tip attempt was wide and the upset bid was over.
Montgomery had 23 points to lead the Huskies. Moore added 16 and Tina Charles 15.
In her final home game, Quigley scored 27 to lead DePaul and Deirdre Naughton added 19. After hitting 8-of-14 3-pointers in the opening half, the Blue Demons were only 1-for-8 in the second.
"We knew in the second half they would bring the heat and we tried to prepare for it," Bruno said. "It took too many possessions for us to handle it like we needed to."
Quigley converted a three-point play three minutes into the second half as the Blue Demons pushed a 12-point halftime lead to 54-39.
The lead climbed to 17 at 56-39 before UConn came back. A 3-pointer by Montgomery and baskets by Charde Houston and Moore during an 18-8 rally cut the lead to 64-57 with 7 minutes to go. Moore hit another jumper to slice it to five and set the stage for a frenzied finish as the Huskies picked up the defense and ate away at the lead.
Montgomery's 3-pointer to cap an 11-2 run gave the Huskies a 72-70 lead with 3:22 left.
Naughton scored to tie it and Quigley got the lead back for the Blue Demons, hitting a floater from the baseline with 2:13 to go. Moore's layup tied it again with 1:42 left.
DePaul, which has been in the Top 25 for a good portion of the season before dropping out in February, is 3-6 against ranked teams this season. The Blue Demons lost to then No. 3 Tennessee at home two months ago 102-68.