Women’s basketball travels to No. 1 DePauw for Sweet 16 matchup

| Sports Reporter

Sahil Patel | Student Life

Junior Lucy Montgomery loads up to take a three-pointer in the Washington University women’s basketball game against the University of Chicago on Feb. 23. Montgomery had 15 points in the first half in last Saturday’s NCAA Second Round game against Rhodes College before injuring her pinky on her shooting hand.

The last four times that Washington University’s women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16, it kept winning at least until it reached the national championship game. This year, that streak is in jeopardy as undefeated and top-ranked DePauw University stands in the way of the Bears’ quest for another deep tournament run.

The statistics surrounding DePauw’s season-long dominance are staggering. The Tigers win games by an average of 27.4 points. While both of the Bears’ playoff wins were one-point games in the final minute, DePauw coasted to 30- and 27-point victories in the first two rounds, respectively. Besides its 60-59 victory against Wash. U. over Thanksgiving break, in which the Tigers made the winning free throws with 6.1 seconds remaining, DePauw has won every game by at least eight points.

In the regular season, it ranked first nationally in three-point percentage; third in scoring margin, turnovers per game and assist-to-turnover ratio; and fourth in rebounding margin.

Yet despite those laudatory numbers, the Red and Green stuck with DePauw for 40 minutes in the first meeting and can use that experience to know where to devote their focus in game preparation.

“They were able to penetrate—we didn’t do a very good job stopping the dribble,” junior Lucy Montgomery said of the first game. “I think that’s something that we’ve really improved on throughout the course of the season. [Head] Coach [Nancy Fahey] has really put big emphasis on our defensive integrity.”

Another item that bears watching is the status of Montgomery, who made three three-pointers in the teams’ first meeting and nailed five threes in the first half against Rhodes College in Wash. U.’s last game before injuring the pinky finger on her shooting hand. She did not return and is questionable to play this weekend.

Both Montgomery and senior Kristin Anda emphasized the need to match DePauw’s physical playing style, and this goal might be the most crucial to the Bears’ success. Wash. U. managed single-digit offensive rebounds for the only time all season—DePauw grabbed 18—and attempted only five free throws as compared to the Tigers’ 29 in the teams’ first contest. The Bears must limit these disparities in the rematch if they wish to reverse the game’s outcome.

Still, Fahey was quick to note that the two teams “have developed in a lot of different ways over the course of the season, so in some respects [the first game] is something to go off of, but I think it’s a whole new game and a whole new situation when you’re playing in the Sweet 16 round.”

With “the tradition between the two programs,” she added, “it’s going to be a highly competitive game, and all the other fluff around it, I think, is going to be immaterial.”

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Anda said. “We want to play DePauw; we want to see them again this season and see what we can do…They’re a great team, so it should be a great matchup.”

And if the rematch recreates the intensity and final-minute lead changes of the first iteration, it will be great—Tigers and Bears, oh my.