Unbeaten 2018 continues for men’s basketball

Frank Yang | Staff Reporter

The Washington University men’s basketball team—red hot in the midst of an eight-game winning streak—started off February with a bang, putting on two dominant performances against Rochester University and No. 15 Emory University. The Bears have now won 10 in a row, improving their record to 18-2, and now boasting four wins against ranked teams.

The Bears led wire-to-wire against Rochester Friday night. Wash. U. took an eight-point lead into halftime, and did not look back from there, eventually closing out a 77-63 win. Senior David Schmelter led all scorers with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and three other senior starters—Kevin Kucera, Andrew Sanders and Jake Knupp—joined him with double-digit points.

Senior Kevin Kucera fights through the University of Rochester defense during the Bears’ Friday night game. The Bears secured a 77-63 win against Rochester to go on a nine-game consecutive win streak, and they brought the streak to 10 with a win against Emory Sunday.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Senior Kevin Kucera fights through the University of Rochester defense during the Bears’
Friday night game. The Bears secured a 77-63 win against Rochester to go on a nine-game consecutive win streak, and they brought the streak to 10 with a win against Emory Sunday.

Sunday’s game against Emory was a repeat performance, against what was, on paper, a stronger team. The Bears blew the game open and cruised to an 82-69 win against an Eagles team that entered the game ranked fifteenth in the country with a 16-3 record.

One of the highlights for Wash. U. this year has been its defense, which put on a show in the second half against Emory. The Bears limited an Eagles offense that averages 46.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from 3 to 38 percent overall in the second half, including a dismal 24 percent from deep. At the same time, the Bears exploded offensively, shooting 57 percent from the field.

Head coach Mark Edwards said he has been particularly impressed by his team’s defense over this unbeaten stretch.

“I think right now we’re playing very good team defense, and it’s been how we put separation between us and our opponent,” he said. “They have been having a tough time getting a shot.”

The numbers support Edwards’ assessment: The Bears have been holding their opponents to just 72.1 points per game this season.

The first half against Emory was a back and forth battle between two very strong teams. Schmelter was lights out in the first half, scoring 12 of Wash. U.’s 37 points as well as notching 10 rebounds.

The second half marked a turning point in the game. Wash. U. exploded right out of the gate, jumping out to a 10-point lead. Kucera and senior forward Matt Highsmith seemingly couldn’t miss, scoring 12 points each on a combined 9-for-12 from the field. Sanders went 3-for-3, and Schmelter added six boards to finish out a 16-rebound outing.

Junior Marcus Meyer passes the ball to Matt Nester during the Bears’ 77-63 win against Rochester. The No. 2 men’s  basketball team will face Brandeis University next on Friday.Grace Bruton | Student Life

Junior Marcus Meyer passes the ball to Matt Nester during the Bears’ 77-63 win against Rochester. The No. 2 men’s
basketball team will face Brandeis University next on Friday.

Edwards said his team has managed to stay focused during this long unbeaten run, something that he attributed largely to his experienced, senior-heavy team.

“I think the main thing is that part of this is experience is that you learn that what you earn you can lose very quickly,” he said. “I think these guys know that and when they walk out there—they know it well.”

The Red and Green now enter the final stretch of the season. With five games left, the Bears seem headed for a UAA title. With a two game lead over Emory, and the edge in the head to head, Wash. U. only needs to win three of its last games to clinch the conference crown, though Edwards and his team would love to run the table and close out a perfect UAA season.

The next hurdle between Wash. U. and UAA perfection will come next weekend, when they make their final two-game road trip of the year against Brandeis University and New York University.