There weren't many moments the Tigers needed to be concerned.
In the first minute, Savannah Trees nailed a 3 pointer for the first points of the game. After that, a flurry of steals and more 3s rained from the perimeter, and the DePauw women's basketball team led from start to finish to down Washington University in St. Louis, 59-42. The 42-point effort for the Bears was its lowest of the season.
The Tigers advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division III tournament Friday evening, and will face Christopher Newport University (30-2) tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Neal Fieldhouse.
"Clearly that was DePauw establishing why they are No. 1 in the country, and why I consider them the best defensive team in the country," Washington head coach Nancy Fahey said. "I'm proud of how my kids played, but you have to give hats off to how well DePauw played."
The result seemed a forgone conclusion after the opening four minutes of the game. The Tigers led 5-0, and the Bears were 0-5 from the field. Washington (22-6) trimmed the difference to one in the next four minutes, but it would come no closer and never threaten the Tigers' lead for the rest of the game.
"I'm really proud of this team in this game," DePauw head coach Kris Huffman said. "They have come to work every day this year to get better, and they play every possession to win. We don't want the season to end."
By halftime, DePauw led 28-20 sparked by 3 pointers from by senior Kate Walker, junior Alex Gasaway and senior Kathleen Molloy. Molloy's 3 came after two offensive rebounds from junior Alison Stephens, two missed 3's from Trees, and a timeout from Huffman. After the game, she said because of the height of the Bears, the perimeter was what needed to be exploited.
"They are so hard to score against because they are so long," Huffman said. "Their length really eats up a lot of space."
At the half, Fahey warned her team of DePauw's penchant for going on scoring runs right away.
Despite her words, that's exactly what happened.
The Tigers poured on a 10-2 run in the first three and a half minutes to lead 38-22. The final bucket in the run was made by Ross, who stole the ball away from a Washington guard who was challenged first by Ellie Pearson at the top of the arc.
Ross picked the ball up, and sprinted down the court for an uncontested layup.
"It seemed like the Maryville game all over again where Ali Ross gets us an easy bucket somewhere," Huffman said. "Rebounding wasn't our greatest thing in the second half. Wash-U kind of kicked our butts on the boards, but we defended, and I thought we were able to get transition stuff in the second half to give us confidence and distance."
Along with Ross - who tallied three steals and seven points - Gasaway gave DePauw a boost offensively, even with her right knee heavily guarded with a brace. The junior forward injured herself two weeks ago in practice, and nailed two deep 3's, and operated down low in the post for 10 points. With 6 minutes, 36 seconds remaining, Gasaway hit a 3 to put DePauw up by 21.
That wasn't the best highlight for the Crawfordsville product.
She received the ball in the middle of the lane on the next offensive possession after her 3, turned, and bounced a perfect pass through the defense to a cutting Stephens for the largest lead of the game, 54-31 with six minutes remaining.
"We've battled, you have to give them credit," Fahey said. "With Gasaway, that's a true sign of a team that's got a destiny right now as far as they are still playing strong when she has limited minutes."
Added Gasasway, who played for 18 minutes: "Just being in the game, you get more into a flow. It felt more like usual. It's fine sitting on the bench, but when I get in there more, it's more comfortable for me."
In the end, the Bears scored more points in the paint (28-20) and scored more points off turnovers (19-12). However, DePauw out-rebounded Washington 38-34 and held Washington to a 30.2 field goal percentage. The difference was the Tigers were 10-24 from beyond the arc, and the Bears were 2-11.
Walker posted a team-high 13, and Stephens led the effort on rebounding with nine.
DePauw tied the school record for most wins in a season with 31 and is now 3-0 in NCAA tournament games against Washington.
Saturday's game against Christopher Newport will mark the first ever matchup between the two programs. Despite the unprecedented run by the Tigers, Huffman tried to keep her players' heads focused and even-keeled.
"This Elite 8 game will be the toughest game we've ever played in. Period," Huffman said. "And I hope they will prepare themselves this evening for that, because there's nothing like what we'll experience tomorrow."
Walker, smiling and tapping her hand on Huffman's shoulder, agreed.
"We're going to eat and go to bed," she said.