DePaul plays in the biggest endeavor in college basketball on Sunday, taking on Louisville in NCAA tournament round two play, and its two seniors realize how important the little things are to going on or going home.
Chanise Jenkins and Megan Podkowa played against Louisville at the KFC YUM! Center in 2013 as freshmen, both giving stellar performances that were signs of things to come in the following years. Jenkins scored a then-career-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds and three steals. Podkowa came off the bench to score a then-career-high 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. But DePaul lost that game, 81-55.
The Blue Demons went on to the NCAA tournament that year; the following year, upsetting Duke en route to a Sweet 16 appearance; and last year, overcoming Minnesota and advancing to the second round.
But how to get to the NCAA tournament the five years Jenkins has been at DePaul and the four years Podkowa has been there?
There are those two words again, small in characters, but big in character.
"It all plays a part on the team staying together and not losing track of doing the little things that helped us get here," said Jenkins on Sat. "Also, remaining coachable. It is easy to get to the [NCAA tournament] and get big-headed. We got here by listening to [coach Bruno] and following the game plan, and we shouldn't steer away from that now."
And this year has been no different, with DePaul beating James Madison 97-67 in round one action.
"Our team has always had good chemistry, and that helps us when we get to these type of tournaments because we want to play for each other and we want to win for each other," Podkowa said. "Also, having the experience and knowing what it takes to get to the next level."
And that next level, an opportunity for DePaul to get to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years, comes on Sunday.
"[What we have to focus on] is rebounding, executing on offense, defending, and controlling the tempo," Jenkins said.
"What we have been focusing on is the little things; communicating is going to be huge," Podkowa said.
And being seniors, there is the trickle down effect to the younger players on how to deal with the NCAA tournament experience.
"There is not really much you can do with [the younger players] to help them get ready for the NCAA tournament," Jenkins said. "Just live in the moment and be blessed for the moment to live in this opportunity."
"Relax and have fun, and [we tell them] you are doing the same things you have been doing all year, just on a bigger stage. But you still have to do the little things," Podkowa said.
Little may equal big tomorrow, and for DePaul, a trip to Dallas and the Sweet 16.