Women’s basketball: Bears destroy Vikings in season opener

| Managing Editor
Junior Alex Hoover opened the season with a 14-point, four-steal performance against Augustana College on Sunday. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Junior Alex Hoover opened the season with a 14-point, four-steal performance against Augustana College on Sunday. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Washington University women’s basketball breezed past Augustana College (Ill.) on Sunday in both teams’ season opener. Though the Bears seemed a bit out of sync throughout the game, the nation’s top-ranked team fell just one point short of doubling up the Vikings in a 71-36 victory.

“I was happy with the focus and intensity at the start of the game,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “We’ve been working hard the last month, so it was nice to see them come out with that kind of intensity.”

Similar to last season, Wash. U. displayed the depth of its bench, as 13 players scored at least a point. Senior Zoë Unruh led the team with 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting, and junior Alex Hoover was the only other player to break double figures, scoring 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including 2 for 3 from beyond the three-point line.

“If one person is having an off shooting night or someone is getting blocked out, we’ve got four others on the court that can potentially score, so it makes it really tough to guard us,” Unruh said on the balanced offensive effort.

The Wash. U. bench scored 33 points, led by junior Kathryn Berger and sophomore transfer student Bethany Morrison, who scored nine and eight points respectively. Morrison, who played for Dartmouth College (Division I, Ivy League) last season, looked sharp in her first regular season contest, as she shot 3 for 5 from the field, including 2 for 3 from three-point range.

“You come in and have a lot of energy off the bench. It’s nice to get in and settle into your game,” Morrison said on her first basket. She also recorded an assist and two steals in the game.

Hoover opened the game with a layup, and the Red and Green poured it on, never relinquishing the lead. After missing her shot from the floor, Morrison sunk her first three-pointer of the day and first basket as a Bear to make the score 21-8. The Bears then built on their already large lead to take a 39-16 lead into the break. While Augustana fought hard and managed to gain 20 points in the second half, they could not contend with the balanced Wash. U. attack that scored 71 points on a respectable 41.4 percent shooting for the game.

The Bears’ occasional lack of communication on offense was compensated for by continuous hustle and dominating defense that held the Vikings to 23.7 percent shooting for the game and 15.8 percent shooting from three-point range. Senior Kristen Fox managed a team-high 11 points, but no other Viking scored more than seven in the loss. Wash. U. also forced 19 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 51-42.

While the Red and Green were heavily favored against Augustana, the team now faces possibly its toughest weekend of the season at the annual Tip-Off Tournament. Wash. U. will play No. 12 DePauw University at 5 p.m. on Friday on the campus of No. 6 Illinois Wesleyan University. The winner of the game will face the winner of the Illinois Wesleyan and Central College game on Saturday in the tournament final, and the losers will also play.

“It’s two top 10 opponents on the road, and it’s just a good weekend of basketball competition, and I think it, in the long run, is going to make us a better team,” Fahey said.

For Unruh, the game against DePauw is more personal.

“It’s pretty huge. We haven’t beat DePauw since I have been here, so it’s a big game for us,” Unruh said. The Bears have not beaten the Tigers since the 2005-2006 season and lost in the NCAA final to the Tigers in 2007.