Men’s basketball continues hot start, prevails against Alma
With three minutes left in the first half Sunday afternoon, Alma College was putting some serious pressure on the Washington University men’s basketball team. The two teams had traded blows for the entire game up to that point, and Alma had managed to pull ahead, 36-34.
With Wash. U. looking for some momentum before the end of the half, the dual threat of senior guard Jake Knupp’s 3-point shooting and senior center David Schmelter’s inside scoring ability proved to be just what the doctor ordered. Schmelter hit a lay-up to tie the game, and Knupp nailed a 3-pointer to put the Bears up on the next play. Wash. U. closed out the rest of the half on a 7-3 run, and would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.
The first half was a testament to the diverse attack that this Wash. U. offense has to offer. Knupp shot the ball extremely well, raining down three 3-pointers, and racking up two assists, a steal, and an offensive rebound to boot. His shooting helped the Red and Green pull away late in the half; two seniors, forward Andrew Sanders and guard Kevin Kucera, combined for 18 points in the first frame to help build the lead.
A major strength of the Wash. U. team in the first half was its ability to produce offensive rebounds and keep the ball alive. The Red and Green had nine total offensive rebounds in the half, producing second chance opportunities that pressured Alma defensively. Ball movement was also a highlight of Wash. U.’s game, as Kucera stood out with six assists in the first half alone.
The second half was more of the same: great offensive effort paired with a solid defensive foundation. The Bears continued to dominate on the glass, rebounding the ball 20 times to Alma’s 13, and this presence inside also paid dividends in the free throw department. In the second half, the Red and Green were fouled a total of 11 times, which amounted in 13 points off of free throws. Even though Wash. U. shot less efficiently in the second half—43.6 percent compared to 54.1 percent in the first—they still managed a 50-point half to secure the 96-86 win.
Knupp’s and Sanders’s 26-point efforts helped overcome a rough game by senior forward Matt Highsmith, who scored only two points, going 0-for-4 from the field, including 0-for-3 from deep. It was his fourth single-digit scoring effort in six games; Highsmith is now making just 28.8 percent of his shots for the season. The other starters, Kucera and Schmelter, both scored in double digits.
Sporting a 5-1 record, the Red and Green have started the swan song for their all-senior starting five well, most notably picking up an upset over No. 6 Tufts University in their hot start. Wash. U. are a dominant team on the glass, outrebounding opponents four out of six games, mostly by a double-digit margin. The Bears do much of this damage through offensive rebounds—they make up over 40 percent of their total boards per game.
Wash. U. returns home to take on Central College Saturday before staying relatively close to home to take on Fontbonne University next Tuesday.