Balanced attack facilitates Bears’ weekend sweep

| Sports Editor
Senior Aaron Thompson dribbles around a Rochester defender. (Cedric Xia | Student Life)

Senior Aaron Thompson dribbles around a Rochester defender. (Cedric Xia | Student Life)

Senior co-captain Aaron Thompson’s 29 points pushed Washington University past conference rival University of Rochester, while the Bears used an all-around strong effort to pick up two conference wins over the weekend.

“I feel like each game is kind of a step to our ultimate goal of winning the [University Athletic Association], then going to the [NCAA tournament], and then hopefully winning that,” junior Spencer Gay said. “Each game that we win is just very important.”

Thompson scored eight straight of his 16 points to end the first half against the Yellowjackets on Friday night, building a 27-20 lead for the Bears.

“Aaron is the kind of player who can dominate a game,” senior co-captain Cameron Smith said. “Obviously with his scoring ability, but I think that a lot of people don’t notice all the little things he does besides scoring. He is a good defender, a good rebounder…He’s a smart player.”

But the lead was quickly erased by a 10-1 Rochester run. Wash. U. battled back, taking a five-point lead after graduate student and co-captain Sean Wallis’ layup.

The Yellowjackets never came closer than five points for the rest of the game. Smith recorded 10 points in the 68-59 victory.

The Bears exhibited an even greater performance on Sunday against Emory University.

In the 83-69 win, Gay had his second double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Smith had 15 points, a career high. Junior forward Caleb Knepper added 13 points.

“I was kind of disappointed how I played the week before, in my hometown [Atlanta],” Gay said. “I told myself that I really wasn’t going to think about anything. I was just going to play hard…try to start it up on defense, and let everything else come to me.”

Smith got the Red and Green on the board first with a three-pointer at the 18:40 mark. Back-to-back long-range shots from the senior pushed the score to 15-5 minutes later. All of Smith’s points in the game came from behind the arc.

“Emory came out in a triangle and two [defense], which is pretty much designed to guard two people…really tightly, so they were guarding Sean [Wallis] and [Aaron Thompson],” Smith said. “That kind of left me, Spencer [Gay] and Zach [Kelly] room to work. We had some really good shots. I had wide open looks from the outside.”

Yet another Smith three-pointer, this time with 2:52 left in the half, matched the Bears’ largest lead of the period at 14 points. Wash. U. would take a 13-point advantage into the break.

The double-digit lead was not enough. Gay’s layup with 14:49 left in the second half extended the lead to 49-28.

“The game [Emory] played before, on Friday, they were actually down by 20 at the beginning of the second half,” Gay said. “They came back and won in overtime. We knew that we had to come out, in the second half, really ready to go.”

Gay, the UAA leader in blocked shots, had three in the game.

The Bears’ largest lead of the game, 28 points, came with 5:10 left in the game. Junior J.D. Elder’s three-pointer put an exclamation mark on a day that was all Bears.

Washington University (18-2, 8-1) hits the road this upcoming weekend, hoping to avenge a 58-55 overtime loss to Brandeis University (15-4, 6-3) on Jan. 15. The Bears take on the Judges this Friday, before heading to the Big Apple to face New York University (14-6, 5-4) on Sunday.

“We missed free throws, made turnovers, and had a lot of opportunities to win [against Brandeis] that we didn’t get done,” Smith said. “We’re excited to go up there and try to close the deal this time.”