The DePauw Tigers, defending national champions, fell behind 7-0 on their home court Friday night against Carthage College (Kenosha, WI) in the NCAA Division III women's basketball tournament. Early in the game, the Tigers had to be thinking about their last loss at Neal Fieldhouse, which came two years ago against the same Carthage Lady Red in the second round of the NCAA tourney.
"I know I have thought about Carthage the past two years knocking us out my sophomore year," said DePauw senior forward Alex Gasaway (Crawfordsville, IN). "I think that drove us in the off-season last year. When we saw that matchup this last week it's in the back of our minds. We don't like to lose. But we definitely don't like to lose at home."
The Tigers did not lose at home, taking control by halftime and blowing the game open in the second half. DePauw (30-1) beat Carthage (26-4), 73-54, for its 36th consecutive win at home.
Gasaway sparked a 13-2 Tigers run to end the first half and finished with 18 points.
"If we do have kind of a slow start," said Gasaway, "that's when we really propel forward is right before that halftime. We kind of get loose. We get into a little bit of a grove. We find our comfort on offense and it can make a huge difference going into halftime."
DePauw Junior Savannah Trees took over in the second half, scoring 14 of her game-high 20 points after halftime.
"It was definitely a mentality," said Trees (Libertyville, IL). "I told myself I needed to be more aggressive. All you have to do is tell yourself that this could be your last game. That's the only motivation that you need."
DePauw stretched the lead to as many as 28 points in the second half. The Tigers neutralized Carthage's inside advantage with a quick pace and waves of fresh defenders playing intense defense with active hands.
"We want to use our depth," said DePauw coach Kris Huffman. "If we're 9-10 deep, we want to make sure we are emptying our tank up and down the floor. And then our defensive intensity, because we are so small inside, we better get after it on the perimeter, so we do want to play with quite a motor."
The Tigers have lost just one game over the past two seasons as Huffman tries to lead the school to back-to-back national titles and its third overall (2007, 2013).
"I'm really proud of how they've handled it," said Huffman. "It's a tough year coming off what they did last year. Their focus and attention to detail has been remarkable, especially in the month of February and going into March."
DePauw advances to the national quarterfinals for the sixth time in the past 13 seasons. The Tigers host Wisconsin-Whitewater Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Wisconsin-Whitewater beat conference rival Wisconsin-Oshkosh 69-57 in Friday's first game. DePauw beat Wisconsin-Whitewater last year in the national title game.
"We're very excited," said Trees. "I know they are probably even more excited than we are to get revenge on us. But we're trying not to look at last year and just play a normal game. It should be interesting."
"We'll have to use the reverse revenge factor," said Huffman, in her 21st season at DePauw. "We'll talk about how they want to get a little bit of revenge on us. They're an outstanding team and they're playing their best basketball right now, so we'll have to be ready to play."