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A four-course basketball feast: Thanksgiving break sports roundup

Jon Lewis | Senior Sportes Editor

While many Washington University students were home for the holidays this past Thanksgiving weekend, the University’s basketball teams hit the road for a feast of away games. Both men’s and women’s basketball traveled to Ohio to compete in a few tournament games, while most of us were working our way through leftover turkey.

Women’s Basketball

The Wash. U. women’s basketball team had its most dramatic moment of the young season this Sunday. As the clock approached zero in the fourth quarter, the Bears held a one point lead against No. 15 DePauw University. With 12 seconds left, that lead became a deficit, as the Tiger’s Sydney Kopp put her team up with a layup.

“The layup dropped, and I put my head down and sprinted to the wing,” Wash. U. junior guard Rachael Sondag said in an interview with Washington University’s sports information department.

Junior Becca Clark-Callender goes up for a layup in the Bear’s UAA Championship game aganist Chicago last year. The Bears have started out the 2017 season 3-1 with all games played on the road, and the team looks to improve in their first home game of the season this Friday.Jordan Chow | Student Life

Junior Becca Clark-Callender goes up for a layup in the Bear’s UAA Championship game aganist Chicago last year. The Bears have started out the 2017 season 3-1 with all games played on the road, and the team looks to improve in their first home game of the season this Friday.

Sondag, a career 40 percent three point shooter, found her spot on the left wing and waited for junior point guard Becca Clark-Callender to bring the ball up the court.

“I hoped [Clark-Callender] would find me, and she did,” Sondag said. “There was one second on the clock; so, I knew it had to go up.”

Sondag caught the ball on a cross court feed from Clark-Callender and put up a high arcing three-pointer that caught nothing but net, giving the Bears a two-point lead with less than a second to play.

“It was just a catch in rhythm,” Sondag said of her game-winner. “I didn’t really have time to think on that last shot. It just went off my hands into the basket.”

Sondag’s jumper gave the Bears their second win on the trot, both of them against ranked teams, after Wash. U. held off No. 25 Illinois Wesleyan University 88-80 earlier in the weekend.

The major difference against Illinois Wesleyan was offensive production from Wash. U.’s frontline. After scoring just 10 points in the Bears’ loss to Wisconsin Lutheran College, junior forward Madeline Homoly was back with a vengeance, dropping a monstrous 29 points and 16 rebounds. Sophomore Kristina Schmelter got in on the action with a career-high 19 points off the bench. Adding to the list of career-highs, Clark-Callender dished out eight assists, her best total in a Wash. U. uniform.

After an up-and-down first half which featured six lead changes, the Bears managed to go into the break with a six point lead. From there, they only trailed for a brief period in the third quarter before retaking the lead before the final frame and putting just enough distance between themselves and the Titans to close out the win.

The next day, Wash. U. found itself in another nail biter. As they played to a stalemate in the first half with DePauw. The Bears created a bit of space heading into the final frame, closing out the third quarter on a 14-six run.

However, the Tigers came storming back in the fourth, and back-to-back three-pointers from Claire Keefe and Maya Howard tied the game at 64 with 7:33 left to play.

Though Sondag put the Bears back up three with a jumper of her own, they could not create any distance, and the two teams went shot-for-shot as the game approached its dramatic climax, eventually capped off by Sondag’s game-winner.

With two wins over the break, Wash. U. improved its record to 3-1. More reassuringly for the Bears, after an abysmal 50 point performance against Wisconsin Lutheran, they averaged 83 points in the two games over the weekend, indicating that they are getting a hang of new head coach Randi Henderson’s new offensive sets.

Whether this offensive improvement holds up remains to be seen, and it will next be put to the test this weekend when the Bears play their first home games of the year in the annual McWilliams Classic.

Men’s Basketball

It was a mixed weekend for the men’s basketball team, who traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to compete in the Mount St. Joseph Tipoff Classic, as the team split their two matches.

The Bears first game of the break was against Ohio Northern University, who were fresh off of a high-flying 106-94 shootout with Defiance College. Wash. U. started on the front foot, scoring three of the first four baskets, but the offense stagnated after that—after making three shots from the field in the first two minutes of game time, they only managed four for the next 18.

Senior Kevin Kucera drives toward the basket in the Bears’ victory over UC-Santa Cruz last year. The Bears had mixed results this weekend, when they travelled to Cincinnati and competed in the Mount St. Joseph Tipoff classic and split their two matches to go 5-1 on the year.Skyler Kessler | Student Life

Senior Kevin Kucera drives toward the basket in the Bears’ victory over UC-Santa Cruz last year. The Bears had mixed results this weekend, when they travelled to Cincinnati and competed in the Mount St. Joseph Tipoff classic and split their two matches to go 5-1 on the year.

Wash. U. shot a hard-to-watch 19 percent for the first half, and as they were floundering, the Polar Bears found steady water. Ohio Northern shot 46.9 percent from the floor, propelling them to a nine point lead at halftime.

The second half started with more of the same, with the Polar Bears stretching their lead out to 13. However with a little over 15 minutes left, their non-arctic counterparts woke up from their offensive hibernation.

A lay-up from senior forward Andrew Sanders cut the lead to double digits and then a three by senior Matt Highsmith off of an offensive rebound by senior Kevin Kucera cut the deficit to just six.

Two minutes later, the roles were reversed, as Highsmith stole the ball and turned provider for Kucera who tied the game at 48 with a layup.

From there, the lead changed hands over the next few minutes, until the final minute, when senior Jake Knupp caught the ball in the corner on a feed from Kucera and fired the Bears into a lead that they would never relinquish. Kucera iced the game at the line, and the Bears escaped with a 77-73 victory.

However, the Bears ran into two issues the next day against Mount St. Joseph University. First: They were forced to play without Sanders, their All-American forward, who missed the game with injury. Second, the Lions shot the lights out.

St. Joseph hit 16 of the game’s first 21 shots and ended the first half shooting a scorching 78.6 percent from the field and an equally hot 66.7 percent from beyond the arc. With the Bears only converting 12 of their 30 first half shots, the Lions unsurprising held the upper hand at halftime, 55-35.

There would be no coming back for the Bears this time. Wash. U. might have hoped the St. Joseph offense would cool down in the second half, and while the Lions were not as efficient in the second half, they still shot over 60 percent.

Wash. U. simply could not keep up, and the 20-point deficit held up as the Bears lost for the first time this year, 96-74.