Bears win season-opening tournament on the road
The No. 1 Washington University men’s basketball team began its national championship defense with victories over North Park University and Colorado College in the Colorado College Tip-Off last weekend to start the season 2-0.
The Bears defeated North Park 86-64 in their season-opening game on Saturday and then took down Colorado College 82-64 in the tournament’s championship game to record their seventh and eighth straight victories dating back to last year.
Senior point guard and preseason First Team All-American Sean Wallis, playing in his first regular season game since suffering a season-ending injury in the third game last season, led the way for the Bears against North Park with 22 points on his 22nd birthday. Wallis shot 4-6 from three-point range and 6-6 from the foul line.
“It wasn’t like I went out trying to score 22 points on my 22nd birthday, but it was definitely pretty funny,” Wallis said. “After the game, my teammates were giving me a pretty hard time…but I wasn’t really worried about that. I was just trying to win in my first game back and for the team to get into the championship game in the tournament.”
Wash. U. scored the first 12 points of the game, including three-pointers by Wallis and junior guard John Wolf, to build a huge lead in the first five minutes of the game. North Park cut the lead to 24-20 with 5:53 left in the first half, but late three-pointers by Wallis and junior shooting guard Aaron Thompson put the Bears up 39-28 at halftime.
The Bears began the second half on a 10-0 run and shot 64.3 percent (18-28) from the field and 75 percent (9-12) from the foul line to put the game out of reach.
Against Colorado College on Sunday, Thompson led the way with a career-high 31 points on 11-17 shooting from the field, including 5-9 from three-point range.
“[Aaron] is playing with a lot of confidence right now, which he should,” Head Coach Mark Edwards said. “He had a great year last year, and he’s worked hard to get ready for this year. When he gets an open shot, you’re surprised if he misses, not if he makes.”
The Red and Green jumped out to an early lead again, going up 9-0 on three straight three-pointers by Thompson. After Colorado College trimmed the lead to 12-10, the Bears went on a 12-0 run, capped by a three-pointer by junior point guard Ross Kelley, to extend the lead to 24-10 with 10:07 remaining in the first half. Wash. U. entered the half leading 42-27.
Colorado College, which snapped a 24-game losing streak with an 86-85 overtime victory against the University of La Verne on Saturday night, cut the lead to 65-56 after a layup by Jarrell Sweet with 6:21 remaining in the second half, but was never able to get closer after that point.
For Wash. U., senior power forward and preseason Second Team All-American Tyler Nading added 10 points and nine rebounds while Kelley had nine points and Wallis had eight points and five assists. The Bears shot 51 percent (26-51) from the field for the game and 56.3 percent (9-16) from three-point range.
“I don’t think it was the best game we’ve played, but we did the things we needed to do to win,” Wallis said.
Wash. U. returns to action on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at No. 2 Augustana College (1-0). Last season Augustana, then ranked No. 5, knocked off the top-ranked Bears at home in the fourth game of the season, 66-60.
“It’s going to be a wild time for this early in the season,” Edwards said. “It’s a big game as far as excitement for basketball fans, the No. 1 versus No. 2, and I’m sure there’ll be a full house up there…We’re looking forward to it.”