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Women’s basketball splits opening weekend to open Henderson era

Jon Lewis | Senior Sports Editor

As the fourth quarter drew to a close Saturday afternoon, the Washington University women’s basketball team found itself in what promised to be a nail-biter at Wisconsin Lutheran College. With the Bears were down just four points with 3:38 left play in the game, Warriors forward Jen Dowdon pulled up for a deep three from the right wing. To symbolize a day in which Wash. U. just could not catch a break, the ball bounced off the back of the rim, then the front, then rolled around the hoop a few times before falling in.

Dowdon’s friendly roll put Wisconsin Lutheran up by seven, 46-39, and with the Bears’ offense ice cold all game, it was essentially the dagger. After that, the Warriors went on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes, going on to win 63-50.

It was not all doom and gloom in Wisconsin for the Bears this weekend, however. The day before, they had a much more positive outing against Luther College. Wash. U. got head coach Randi Henderson’s tenure off to a dream start, firing on all cylinders right from the start to take a 22-10 lead after the first quarter.

The Bears ended the opening frame on a 13-4 run, capped off by a catch-and-shoot three from junior guard Rachael Sondag with four seconds left.

The Wash. U. offense, however, lost steam after the first quarter. The Bears only managed to put five points on the board over the next ten minutes, as Luther trimmed the 12-point deficit down to just four.

Despite only making one shot from the field in the second quarter, Wash. U. still had the lead. And the Bears came back from halftime rejuvenated, led by preseason All-American Madeline Homoly. The junior forward had been held to just seven points in the first half but would not be denied in the second, racking up 13 over the final two quarters. Homoly matched her first half total in just the third quarter, as the Bears managed to pull away in a relatively low scoring frame, outscoring Luther 13-7 to restore their double digit advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Wash. U. really put things to rest, effectively ending the game in the first three minutes of the quarter with a 15-0 run. Homoly scored another six points during the run bringing her total to 20, and Sondag hit two threes, six of her 13 points.

Joining Homoly and Sondag in double figures were junior forward Stephanie Botkin and senior guard Natalie Orr, who had a stellar all-around game, scoring 10 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and also notching four assists and six steals. In the end, the Bears cruised to a 68-45 victory.

If Wash. U. started out strong on Friday night, it was the opposite the next morning. Against Wisconsin Lutheran, the Bears put up seven points in the first quarter on 20 percent shooting from the floor.

The Bears picked things up a bit in the second quarter, though it was still a defensive slugfest, with neither team able to shoot more than 45 percent. Much of the Wash. U. offense in the second quarter came through Botkin’s play off the dribble, and the junior forward was the only Bear to make more than one field goal in the period.

As the half closed out, the Bears appeared to have done enough to make up for their lackluster start, after a junior Caroline Ballard layup knotted the game at 22. However, the Warriors’ Tierney Woodward fired a high, arcing three-pointer as time expired, which caught nothing but net, sending the teams to the locker rooms with the score 25-22 for Wisconsin Lutheran.

In the second half, it was the hosts’ Caitlin Knueppel time to shine. After missing much of the first half with foul trouble, the guard found her shooting rhythm after the break and, with two minutes to play, hit back to back jumpers, a mid-range followed by a deep three, to put her team up double digits.

Wash. U. would attempt to fight back at the start of the fourth, working the ball inside to Homoly, who hit a lay-in to cut the deficit to five. On the Bears’ next possession, Orr drove into the paint and found Botkin in the corner, who drilled a three to trim the lead to just two.

That would be as close as the Bears would come, however, as on the next play Dowdon took over the game, scoring the next four points for the Warriors before her bouncing three put the game effectively out of reach.

The Bears, now 1-1, face their first ranked opposition of the young season next Saturday, taking on No. 25 Illinois Wesleyan University in the Midwest Classic.