Men’s basketball takes fifth straight with win over No. 17 Wheaton
The victory was the Bears’ fifth in a row, continuing a hot streak that began on Nov. 26 against Principia College. Wash. U. came away with two victories in last weekend’s Lopata Classic and routed Webster University 74-50 on Wednesday.
Senior guard Dylan Richter scored a game-high 25 points against the Thunder, and senior center Alex Toth added a season-high 19. Richter’s three-pointer 10 minutes into the first half gave the Bears a 21-18 lead that they would not relinquish in the remaining 30 minutes of play. The momentum-changing triple was one of five for Richter, the team’s leading scorer at 17.2 points per game this season.
Richter has caught fire in his last three games, averaging 24.7 points on 59 percent shooting, including 50 percent from downtown.
“With shooting, some days it’s going to fall; some days it’s not,” Richter said. “You practice, and you keep a positive mental attitude, and you hope that more days it falls than not. Lately, it’s just been falling, and that’s [my teammates], too—guys setting you up with good passes and good screens.”
Guards Alan Aboona, a sophomore, and Ben Hoener, a junior, found their teammates for a lot of open looks on Saturday. Aboona dished out a game-high seven assists off the bench, and Hoener had six, each in only 20 minutes of play.
Wheaton narrowed a nine-point Wash. U. lead to only two with 12 minutes left in the game, but a Toth layup sparked a 10-2 run to make the score 62-52. Wheaton would not come closer than a six-point deficit for the rest of the half, and a series of ill-advised Wheaton fouls while the Bears were in the bonus blew the score open to 77-61 with two minutes left.
After a quiet first half, Toth muscled his way to layups and knocked down midrange jumpers for 15 second-half points.
Toth credited team defense, particularly on Wheaton forward Tim McCrary, a Sporting News College Basketball preseason All-American, for keeping the Bears in control. McCrary filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds, six assists and two blocks, but his 15 points were four below his season average.
“The job [forwards] Matt Palucki and Nick Burt, two freshmen, did on [McCrary] was outstanding—those guys really dug in,” Toth said. “We had a handful of help side defenders who just got back on shooters and made them take difficult shots.”
Toth and Richter attributed the team’s recent success to the contributions of its younger players. Besides Palucki and Burt, guard Brayden Teuscher is another freshman who has received significant playing time. But according to Toth, the importance of the freshmen and sophomores extends beyond the games themselves.
“We have the most competitive practices every day,” Toth said. “We have seven freshmen and [seven] sophomores who just push us every day and fight for every spot, and that’s where it starts. Our practices are really intense, and that carries over to the game.”
“We have a deep team,” Richter added. “We have these freshmen that are stepping up big time.”
Despite the win over Augustana, the Bears remained unranked heading into the past week’s games. Head coach Mark Edwards called the polls immaterial and said the Bears must play to their own expectations, not those of onlookers.
The Bears have two upcoming games in Illinois, against Illinois Wesleyan University on Dec. 17 and Elmhurst College on Dec. 30, before opening University Athletic Association play at home against the University of Chicago on Jan. 7.