Coaches are always scouring their teams’ films for things that can be improved in practice, but Wendie Austin-Robinson said she can’t find much fault with the way the Centre College women are playing lately.
The Colonels have won five straight games to reach the third round of the NCAA¿Division III¿women’s tournament, and their coach said she’s just fine-tuning at this point as they look to advance beyond their sectional semifinal Friday against Carthage in Alliance, Ohio.
“Being a coach and watching our (last)¿film, I’m making notes of what we’ve got to tweak in practice, but it’s just sharpening up,” Austin-Robinson said. “It’s all about making plays when you need to make plays, and we’ve got some playmakers making plays that make the coaches look awful good at times.”
Austin-Robinson said the Colonels will have to be sharp when they face one of the best shooting teams in the nation in Carthage.
Carthage (22-7) is ranked second in the nation in field-goal percentage and 11th in 3-point percentage among Division III¿women’s teams, and Austin-Robinson said that presents a challenge for Centre (26-3).
“They’re shooting it extremely well, and we’ve got to be ready defensively,” she said.
The Lady Reds are shooting 46 percent overall from the field and 35.6 percent from 3-point distance. They shot below 38 percent only twice all season and were at 50 percent or better eight times, including Saturday in their 53-48 victory at DePauw in the NCAA¿second round.
“Looking at their splits, they’re shooting it even better (of late). They’re getting better and better,” Austin-Robinson said.
Austin-Robinson said Carthage has good shooters both in the post —¿Diana Jacklin is at 55.1 percent and¿Cailee Corcoran is at 51.7 — and the perimeter — Haley Stercic is at 46.9 percent and Allison Groessi is at 42.5.
Dana Ripkey isn’t among the percentage leaders, but she recently became Carthage’s all-time leader in 3-point baskets, and Jacklin and Corcoran lead the Lady Reds in scoring with 14.1 and 13.2 points per game in the paint.
“It’s a good mix. I think they’ve got a really good balance,” Austin-Robinson said.
Centre has also proven it can shoot the ball well. The Colonels lead the nation in free-throw percentage (.796) and are third in 3-point percentage (.380) and 17th in field-goal percentage (.436).
The Colonels’ top four scorers — Maggie Prewitt (18.0 points), Chelsea Benham (11.8), Lauren Huter (9.0) and Paige Baechle (8.9) — all shoot better than 44 percent from the field, and Prewitt and Benham are at better than 85 percent at the foul line.
One Colonel reached a milestone and another approached one during the win over Washington. Lauren Huter tied Austin-Robinson’s school record for career rebounds and needs one more to break the record of 773 set by the Centre coach in 1994.
“Maggie spoke up and said, ‘She needs more than one for us to win,’”¿Austin-Robinson said.
Prewitt is one short of the school record of 718 steals set by Shannon Collins in 1989. She has already obliterated the career records for 3-point goals (157, old record 127) and assists (532, old record 443), and with 1,799 points she needs only 50 more to reach No. 2 in career scoring.
Austin-Robinson said the Lady Reds also play a more physical, grind-it-out type of game than Centre.
“They’re just very skilled and very tough and very physical. We’ve got to make sure we’re tough from the beginning and execute our defensive scouts the way we do,” she said.
No Carthage player stands taller than 6 feet — Jacklin is the tallest regular — but 12 of the 18 players on its roster are 5-9 or better, including four of its five starters.
“They’ve got a really nice post game. You wouldn’t think they are as dominant as they are,” Austin-Robinson said. “They’re not huge, but they have a great feel down under the basket and use their body well.”
Depth has been a plus for Centre all season — eight Colonels average more than 12 minutes —¿and Austin-Robinson said it will be critical again against a Carthage team that goes “nine or 10 deep.”
“Our depth has to pay off even more now,” she said.
Centre advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 2001, when it made its last NCAA¿appearance, with home wins over Guilford and Washington (Mo.).
Austin-Robinson said she knows the Colonels won’t have the advantage this weekend that they had in Alumni Gymnasium, but she’s glad they don’t have to play sectional host Mount Union out of the gate.
“Our crowd helped us so much this weekend,” she said. “We’ll have all the parents up there, and some students are driving up. We’ll have a great following, but it won’t be like at home.”
Carthage is in the NCAA¿for the third time, earning an at-large bid after losing its conference tournament final by one point, and in the round of 16 for the second time in three years.
The Lady Reds defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater in the first-round before knocking off sub-sectional host DePauw.
Centre will leave for Alliance tonight following its afternoon practice. The Colonels have an early practice Friday at Mount Union.
NCAA Division III Women’s Tournament
At McPherson Academic
and Athletic Complex
Centre (26-3) vs. Carthage (22-7), 5 p.m.
Mount Union (28-1) vs. Illinois Wesleyan (23-5), 7 p.m.
Centre-Carthage winner vs. Mount Union-Illinois Wesleyan winner, 7 p.m.
For ticket and other information and links to live stats, visit athletics.mountunion.edu.