GREENCASLTE -- A game of basketball hot potato ended the wrong way for the DePauw women's basketball team Sunday afternoon at Neal Fieldhouse.
With under 10 seconds to play in a 56-56 game, Washington University pushed the ball down the court, missing two close-range shots before Annie Sayers finally secured the basketball and scored as time expired.
The crowd sat stunned as the women in red and white, ranked No. 5 in the country, rejoiced at their 58-56 win over the No. 10 Tigers in the final game of the 2010 Tipoff Tournament.
"A problem for us all game was rebounding, and obviously that's the way it ended," coach Kris Huffman said. "They were the bigger team and were able to knock it around there at the end."
There was good reason for the crowd's apparent disbelief: Huffman's Tigers haven't lost a regular season game at Neal Fieldhouse since 2004. Sunday's loss broke that 66-game streak.
DePauw trailed all game until finally taking a 56-54 lead with 1:29 to play. For most of the contest, DePauw hovered about 8-12 points behind Washington, but the lady Tigers never relented and eventually closed the gap with defensive discipline and hustle plays.
"We fought hard to get back in the game, and I really liked our effort when we were down and struggling offensively," Huffman said.
Sophomore Ellie Pearson helped lead the Tiger comeback in the second half with a string of key plays that illustrate her style of play and impact during this tournament.
Trailing 42-33 in the second half, Pearson came down with an offensive rebound, scored while drawing a foul and added a free throw. Thirty seconds later, Pearson grabbed another offensive board and netted a tough layup to cut the lead to 42-38. On the Tigers' next possession, Pearson did it a third time: offensive rebound, followed by draining a baseline jumper, this time to make it a two point game.
Later, with under four minutes to play, Pearson beat her box out after a Katie Mathews missed free throw and dished the ball back to Mathews, who knocked down a jumper to make it a 52-49 Washington advantage.
Pearson then found a void underneath the basket for an easy two, grabbed a big rebound on the defensive end and set up Lauren Goff's game-tying three-pointer, knotting the game at 54. Then came a Pearson steal with less than two minutes remaining that led to a Mathews' basket and DePauw's first lead of the game, 56-54.
"Ellie Pearson changes the game for us, especially from a defensive and rebounding standpoint," Huffman said, echoing her praise of the sophomore after Friday's season-opening win over Illinois Wesleyan.
But in the end, after DePauw's scrappy no-quit comeback, Washington made one more play when it counted most. A win would have capped a fantastic start to the season for DePauw
"We have a ton of potential," Huffman said. "We'd rather walk away with two wins, but this team has a lot of fight in them. I just hope they play this hard all season long."
Pearson ended her day as the Tigers' scoring leader, with 15 (13 coming in the second half), followed by Mathews with 12 and Katie Aldrich and Goff, each with eight. Pearson added 12 rebounds while Alex Gasaway brought down five.