Men’s basketball suffers rout at Illinois Wesleyan
In a battle between two frequent Division III championship contenders and top-10 teams, No. 5 Illinois Wesleyan University routed the No. 8 Washington University men’s basketball team 98-73 on Saturday night in Bloomington, Ill.
Saturday’s game countered the traditional nail-biting contests between these two rivals and propelled IWU to a 20-15 lead in the all-time series. The Bears fell to 5-2 on the season with a 1-1 record versus top-25 teams.
With the game tied 9-9, IWU went on an 11-0 run to take a 20-9 lead, and the Titans never conceded the advantage for the rest of the game. Senior forward Chris Klimek and junior forward Matt Palucki were in foul trouble in the first half, but senior guard Tim Cooney filled the void with 21 of his career-high 27 points in the opening half, and the Bears only trailed 47-39 at halftime.
“[Senior guard Alan] Aboona and Klimek have been our go-to guys, and I think Wesleyan was probably focusing a little bit more on them, which freed me up for some more opportunities,” Cooney said. “Once we got going, we realized they were susceptible to the drive, and we did a good job attacking in the first half, which kept the game close.”
In the second half, the Bears got as close as 47-42 after an Aboona three-pointer, but the Titans went on a key 10-0 run later in the half to break the game open to 69-51. The Bears made just two of 13 three-pointers in the second half.
The tandem of Klimek and Palucki struggled with foul trouble throughout the game. The two power forwards had averaged just more than 28 points per game combined for the Bears this season, but they only registered nine points in the loss on Saturday. According to head coach Mark Edwards, the foul trouble made it difficult for the team to cut into the lead and led to many different combinations of players being on the floor.
Aboona contributed 10 points and six assists, and junior guard David Fatoki added eight points off the bench. IWU shot 11-25 on three-pointers and outrebounded the Bears 42-30. IWU’s bench scored 43 points, compared to 17 for the Red and Green. Furthermore, the Titans beat the Bears at their own game by relying on a multitude of players—five players scored in double figures for the Titans.
“One of the concerns we had going into the game was their depth. They have the deepest team I have seen in a long time anywhere,” Edwards said.
Wash. U. struggled from the field with a season-low 38.3 field goal percentage while IWU shot 54.4 percent for the game. The 98 points were the most the Bears had given up since February 2006 in a wild 102-100 victory over Emory University. Edwards credited Wesleyan for an outstanding offensive performance.
Despite the loss, Edwards believes that his team will bounce back.
“This team is an experienced team, and it is used to having to regroup and come back at it again,” Edwards said. “It is disappointing that we couldn’t compete up to the level that we feel we can compete and that we really needed to compete last night, but I’m confident that we can regroup and get back into the competitive mode.”
Added Cooney: “We will have a good week of practice and get back to where we need to be. We know that defense is going to help us win games, and we just have to get back into that mindset.”