DePauw University could repeat as NCAA Division III women's basketball national champion this year. But the Tigers won't be perfect this time.
"We can do it," said junior guard Savannah Trees (Libertyville, Illinois), "but it's going to be rough. It's going to be a very tough goal to reach."
DePauw never lost last season on the way to a Division III record 34 wins and the school's second national title. The winning streak stretched into this season, all the way to 58 straight games before the Tigers suffered their only loss last month. DePauw lost 65-64 at Ohio Wesleyan on February 22nd.
"The team has a different personality," said DePauw coach Kris Huffman. "We have different strengths. But they have the same fight in them. We just do it in a different way."
Kris Huffman has coached the Tigers for 21 seasons. Huffman is the school's all-time leader with 495 victories and an .828 winning percentage. She owns a 28-12 record in the NCAA tourney, highlighted by the 2007 and 2013 national championships. Huffman has challenged this year's team to repeat as champions.
"She's the same coach Huffman," said Trees, "but maybe with a bit more fire because she has to get us pumped up for every single game."
"The goal is to win the conference, go to the national tournament and win the national tournament," said DePauw junior Alex Gasaway (Crawfordsville, Indiana). "But she knows, and we know, how hard that is to do back-to-back. It's definitely our goal and that's pushed her to push us to push each other."
Third-ranked DePauw (29-1) continues its tournament run tonight at 7:30, hosting ninth-ranked Carthage College (26-3) in the sectional semifinals (round of 16). The first game at Neal Fieldhouse tips off at 5 p.m. 12th-ranked Wisconsin-Oshkosh takes on 13th-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater.
DePauw has won 35 straight games on their home court in Greencastle. Tonight's opponent, Carthage, is the last team to beat the Tigers at Neal Fieldhouse. That was two years ago in the NCAA tourney second round.