Women’s basketball builds winning streak with pair of road wins
After stumbling out of the gate in 2018 with two losses to start January, the Washington University women’s basketball team is back in the black in the new year. The Bears have rattled off three straight victories, this weekend using stifling second quarters to beat Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University on the road.
On Friday, Wash. U. looked to even its UAA record at the Horsburgh Gymnasium in Cleveland against 3-10 Case Western. The Red and Green got off to a hot start, burying their first three shots for an early 7-2 advantage. That lead fell apart quickly, however, as the Spartans responded with a 7-0 run to take their first lead of the game. The teams tradeed buckets for the rest of the quarter, with junior forward Madeline Homoly making a layup at the horn to end the period.
The Red and Green turned it on in the second quarter, outscoring the Spartans 23-14 to take a double-digit lead into halftime. Junior guard Rachael Sondag and senior guard Natalie Orr paced the Bears, putting up three buckets apiece for seven points each in the quarter.
Case Western managed to stay afloat in the third quarter, but didn’t cut the deficit enough to avoid the 78-61 loss. Wash. U. closed the deal in the final frame on the back of sophomore Kristina Schmelter, whose second three-for-three quarter gave her 16 on the day. Schmelter was just one big to come up big for Wash. U., which outscored the Spartans 48-14 in the paint. It wasn’t just the starters though: The Bear bench had a 27-7 advantage over Case Western’s.
The bad news for the Bears: their free-throw shooting. The Red and Green were just two-for-10 until a six-for-eight fourth quarter. Even with the late boost, however, they finished at 44.4 percent—their worst performance on more than five attempts all season.
Luckily, the Bears were able to sort things out in time for Sunday’s matinee at the Skibo Gymnasium in Pittsburgh. This time, Wash. U. used the free throw game to its advantage, sinking 20 of 26 while their UAA counterparts only made it to the line nine times, hitting five. That 15-free-throw differential accounted for the outcome: Wash. U. won 83-69.
Even the 14-point difference doesn’t fully explain the Red and Green’s control of the game, though: After jumping out to a 30-20 first-quarter lead, the Bears all but closed the deal by the end of the half. The defense allowed just nine second-quarter points—seven to one Carnegie Mellon scorer—while the offense put up 19, including the final nine, good for a 20-point halftime lead.
The Bears stretched the lead in the third quarter, before settling into the 14-point lead in garbage time. Balanced scoring was the name of the game, with five players scoring in double digits. Orr led the way with 17 points, while junior forward Stephanie Botkin added 11 off the bench.
Wash. U. is back on a roll, just in time for its biggest stretch of the season: Two out of the next three games are against No. 7 University of Rochester, its highest-ranked opponent to date. The first battle is this Friday on the road.