Men’s basketball brings UAA record above .500
The Bears notched an 84-76 win over Carnegie Mellon University on Friday and defeated Case Western Reserve University 74-69 on Sunday, bringing their record in University Athletic Association play to 4-3. The Bears are 14-4 overall and rank fourth in the conference, but they will need to exhibit continued progress to earn a postseason tournament berth.
The past two games were a good start.
Against Case Western on Sunday, senior guard Ben Hoener scored 13 points off the bench and hit a layup with 1:23 remaining that put the Bears ahead by three, 72-69.
Junior forward Chris Klimek equaled his team-leading average of 16 points-per-game on seven-of-10 shooting. Klimek’s impact on the team was made clear when he headed to the bench after picking up his second foul midway through the first half, which prompted a 17-4 Case Western run.
The momentum shift brought the score even at 32, and it eventually tied up again in the second half at 54. However, the Bears crashed the offensive boards late to earn themselves the advantage.
The Bears maintained a 38-24 rebounding edge in both games, with senior center Rob Burnett pulling down 17 of those total 76 boards.
Hoener credited the victories to more effective defensive communication.
“We played a lot better together on defense,” he said. “That’s something we’ve been emphasizing the last couple of weeks.”
Wash. U. also improved significantly in free throw shooting, a category of struggle in recent games. The team made 19 of 25 against Carnegie Mellon and 10 of 12 versus Case Western. The Bears hit only 15 of 30 the prior weekend in a five-point loss to Brandeis and had shot only 51.3 percent in five conference games, including three losses, entering the Carnegie Mellon game.
“We always are working on free throw shooting,” Hoener said. “We have a lot of guys that are better free throw shooters than they’ve shown so far, so I think it’s just kind of evening out right now.”
Burnett, a 52.5 percent free-throw shooter on the season, knocked down five of seven Friday and led six Bears in double figures with 17 points. Hoener and junior guard Alan Aboona both had 15, Klimek scored 14 and junior guard Tim Cooney and sophomore forward Matt Palucki chipped in 11 and 10, respectively.
Still, the Bears barely edged out woeful Carnegie Mellon, which is 4-14 overall and 1-6 in UAA play. With the game tied at 64 and 10 minutes left to play, the Bears pulled away on a 7-0 run sparked by a Cooney three-pointer.
The Bears also had trouble with Case Western, which entered Sunday’s game with a 2-5 league record (9-9 overall), but head coach Mark Edwards attributed the close games to the depth of the UAA conference.
“Take a look at their games against all the other teams—look at the scores of those games,” Edwards said. “They may be the lowest place in the conference, but they’re pretty competitive…that’s the mark of a good conference—top to bottom, nobody walks on the floor and has a win.”
Sure enough, Carnegie Mellon has had all but one of its conference games decided by fewer than 10 points, including a 72-63 defeat to No. 2 University of Rochester.
The Bears will face Carnegie Mellon and Case Western again on Friday and Sunday, respectively, but this time in the Field House, where they play their next four games and five of their final seven.
“We’ve got five games at home coming up, and I really hope the students come out and support both the men and the women and let our home court advantage work for us,” Edwards said.