Men’s basketball rolls to two easy wins

| News Editor

In the closing minutes of the No. 21 Washington University men’s basketball team’s blowout win over Carnegie Mellon University on Friday, a Tartans player broke away for a one-handed dunk and clanked it off the iron.

In the second half of Sunday’s similarly comfortable victory over Case Western Reserve University, Wash. U. junior guard Kevin Bischoff banked in a free throw, and senior center Rob Burnett attempted the first three-pointer of his career, counting both high school and college.

It was that kind of weekend for the Bears, who enjoyed two games far less stress-inducing than their prior University Athletic Association matchups. The Red and Green followed a 90-72 victory over Carnegie Mellon with a 78-57 trouncing of Case Western on their home floor, improving their UAA record to 6-3 and overall mark to 16-4.

The Bears had not enjoyed easy wins for a while—their last game decided by more than 12 points was a 77-62 victory over MacMurray College on Jan. 2, and six of their past seven contests finished with a single-digit margin. The Bears entered UAA play ranked in the top five in all of Division III but dropped to No. 21 following three early conference defeats.

After being challenged on the road last week by Carnegie Mellon, the conference’s last-place team, the Bears rolled past the Tartans in Friday’s rematch. They shot 53 percent from the field and recorded a season-high 28 assists. Junior forward Chris Klimek, the squad’s leading scorer, reached the 20-point plateau for the first time in six games, pouring in 24 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

During the game, 16 Bears saw action as head coach Mark Edwards went to his bench in garbage time.

Edwards was able to empty the bench again on Sunday. The Bears defended the Case Western pick-and-roll inconsistently in the first half but built a 35-28 lead behind 11 points and three assists from sophomore forward Matt Palucki. However, the lead ballooned to 68-44 after 12 minutes in the second half.

Wash. U. clamped down on defense as Case Western struggled with its shooting, connecting on only 36.4 percent of its second-half field goals.

“Our defense really stepped it up in the second half—we were handling their picks a lot better, and then [we had a] 51-31 advantage on the boards [for the game],” Edwards said.

Burnett and junior guard Alan Aboona chipped in 10 and 12 second-half points, respectively; the 6-foot-7-inch Burnett consistently overpowered the smaller defenders guarding him in the post. The big man also tried to flash some perimeter skills, but his long-anticipated three-point shot rimmed out, eliciting laughter from the Bears’ bench.

“That was my first three-pointer I’ve ever taken in college or high school, and with five [regular season] games left, I thought I’d take one just to see what it’s like, but I don’t think I’ll take another after the result,” Burnett said.

Edwards shot some comments toward his grinning players.

“[Edwards] wanted to get mad, but he couldn’t,” Aboona said. “[Burnett] was having such a good game that it was like ‘OK, let’s just let him go on this one.’”

Wash. U. defeated Carnegie Mellon and Case Western on the road the previous weekend but won the games by only eight and five points, respectively.

“It really speaks to the quality of our practices and our coaches that we’re able to play two teams, then play them again the next weekend and come in and make adjustments, work on what we needed to fix and come out the next weekend and just blow them out of the water,” Burnett said.

Specifically, the Bears struggled defending screens in the first two games, Burnett said, but improved in the next pair.

The Bears will need to be even sharper this weekend in home games against Emory University and the University of Rochester. The Bears eked out a two-point win over Emory on Jan. 11 and lost by 12 to Rochester two days later. Rochester is currently ranked No. 1 in Division III but lost on Friday to New York University.

Tip-off is at 8 p.m. on Friday for Emory and at 12 p.m. on Sunday for Rochester.