After strong start, men’s basketball falters in 35th annual Lopata Classic
Entering the 35th annual Lopata Classic Friday evening, the Washington University men’s basketball team hoped to continue its short two-game winning streak early in the season against No. 25 Pomona-Pitzer Colleges and the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
The first game had the Bears face off against undefeated Pomona-Pitzer. Against a ranked team, Wash. U. knew that it needed to come out hard and keep its opponent uncomfortable in the Field House for as long as possible.
After Pomona-Pitzer sank the opening field goal, Wash. U. immediately tied the game and proceeded to lead for the remainder of the first half. As a matter of fact, Wash. U. kept piling on the points, as it got up to a 16-point lead with a little less than two minutes left in the first half. Two quick three-point conversions by Pomona-Pitzer in an attempt to bridge the gap as much as they could before the half brought the lead down to 10 points.
Pomona-Pitzer’s Daniel Rosenbaum led his team with nine points going into the half, while freshman forward Justin Hardy lead the Wash. U. side with 11 points. Going into the locker room with a comfortable 37-27 lead, Wash. U. hoped to keep its momentum going to close out the game and move on to the Lopata final against UW-Platteville, which beat Alma University convincingly, 88-61, in the earlier contest.
Starting the second half, Wash. U. played very well, keeping the lead at a safe distance for the first couple of minutes of the half. Despite their efforts, the crowd watched as Pomona-Pitzer slowly but surely crawled their way back into contention, as they would reduce the lead all the way to one point with 13 minutes left to go. Wash. U. managed to nudge Pomona-Pitzer away a bit, rebuilding a four-point advantage, but that didn’t stop Pomona-Pitzer from taking the lead for the first time since the opening possession of the game when Rosenbaum nailed a three-pointer to give his team a one-point lead with under seven minutes to go in the second half.
After some electrifying back and forth three-pointers and with two more minutes on the clock, Wash. U. led by two points. After a subsequent free-throw from Daniel Rosenbaum made it a one-point game at 63-62, all of Pomona-Pitzer’s attempts to score any more points from that point on were thwarted by clutch Wash. U. defense. Wash. U. would sprinkle on three more free throw shots as insurance as they watched the clock expire with a final score of 66-62, giving Wash. U. its third victory in a row.
Rosenbaum led all scorers with 21 points––and not too far behind was Hardy with 20. Senior center Marcus Meyer led the game with an impressive 13 total rebounds. Overall, Wash. U. led in three-point percentage, free-throw percentage, points off of turnovers and bench points; this game also marked its sixth in a row where it has outrebounded its opponents, leading to an overall 4-2 record.
Wash. U. was then set to go up against UW-Platteville Saturday. Following the starting tip-off, UW-Platteville wasted no time as it struck first after a jump shot conversion. After a bit of back-and-forth from both teams early in the first half, it slowly appeared that UW-Platteville was edging out on top, as they would take a commanding 16-point lead going into the half, the score being 33-17. UW-Platteville’s Quentin Shields led both teams with seven points, while Wash. U. sophomore guard Jack Nolan led the Bears with six.
In the second half, Wash. U. cut into the 16-point deficit early on, managing to get it to as close as five points with 14 minutes to go in the game. However, UW-Platteville responded promptly and pushed the lead back out to 12 points with under nine minutes to go.
Despite the heavy resistance, Wash. U. remained determined as they managed to cut the lead down to four points with 29 seconds left to go on the clock. They attempted to intentionally foul to keep themselves within reach of the game, but UW-Platteville converted on most of their free throw attempts, keeping it at a five-point game with three seconds left on the scoreboard. Following a long baseball inbound pass, junior guard Matt Nester sank a meaningless desperation three-point shot as the game clock expired, making the end result UW-Platteville 64, Wash. U. 62. Wash. U. fought hard with its 45-point second half, but UW-Platteville would just not give into the rally.
Shields and Nolan paced their respective teams with 21 points a piece. Hardy had another solid game, slightly trailing with 16 points at the end of his night. Where Wash. U. dominated the night before, it was dominated Saturday. Overall, UW-Platteville would lead Wash. U. in field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, rebounds (thus snapping Wash. U.’s streak) and bench points.
After the tournament’s conclusion, Shields was awarded the Robert. Burnes Most Valuable Player Award, while Nolan and Hardy were included in the All-Tournament Team.
Despite the mixed bag that was this past weekend, the team will to start a new winning streak when it faces Principia College Thursday at 7 p.m.