Second-half collapse ends women’s basketball season
Washington University women’s basketball head coach Nancy Fahey has always stressed the importance of winning every five minutes of a basketball game in order to keep control.
On a weekend where so many five-minute stretches went the Bears’ way, it only took two that didn’t to cost them their season.
Facing a 32-20 halftime deficit, No. 22 Centre College came out and turned things around in the second half, making two free throws with 14.1 seconds left to beat No. 9 Wash. U. 57-55 and end the Bears’ 2011-12 campaign in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think the whole team feels like it got away, that it should’ve been us,” freshman guard Maddy Scheppers said. “They played a great game, and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
In Friday’s first-round, 79-64 win against Ferrum College, the Bears controlled almost the entire game beyond the first five minutes. They took a 16-14 lead halfway through the first half and never trailed again, outscoring Ferrum 29-10 in the final 10:10 of the first half. Ferrum never got closer than 14 in the second half. Freshman forward Melissa Gilkey led the team with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven blocks, while senior forward Brianne Monahan’s 18 points were a career-high.
Even more noteworthy, though, were the team’s defensive efforts. Wash. U. held Ferrum, the second-highest scoring and fourth-best shooting team in Division III, to 35.2 percent shooting, including 3 of 10 from three-point range. The Bears outrebounded the Panthers 44-40 while shooting 43.1 percent from the field and 19 of 22 from the line.
“[Our plan was to] shut them down, don’t let them get any three-point shots off,” Scheppers said. “Control their post and control the boards.”
Through one half against host Centre on Saturday, things seemed to be headed down the same path. The Bears held a 24-17 edge in rebounding, shot 43.3 percent from the field and held Centre, the third-best three-point shooting team in Division III, to one of nine from beyond the arc and eight of 32 overall. Monahan (nine points) and senior Dani Hoover (seven points) paced the Bears offensively in the half.
Almost immediately after the second half began, however, things shifted the other way. A combination of free throws and three-pointers for Centre quickly tied the contest at 39-39 with 13:30 remaining. Despite eventually falling behind, the Bears controlled a two-minute stretch with about seven minutes left, as they scored seven in a row and took a 53-49 lead after a basket by Scheppers with 4:41 left.
That, unfortunately, would be their last field goal of the game.
Four free throws and a jumper tied the game up for Centre with 58 seconds left, and after a turnover and a shooting foul by Gilkey with 14 seconds left, Centre’s Chelsea Benham hit a pair of free throws to score the winning points.
Wash. U. had two more chances, but Scheppers’ shot with four seconds left was blocked, and after an offensive foul by Centre on the ensuing inbound attempt, Hoover missed an off-balance three at the horn.
“They started crashing harder, and we started not rebounding as well as we did in the first half, and they were just making some open shots and we weren’t,” Scheppers said of the second half.
Gilkey (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Scheppers (12 points, 12 rebounds) were the offensive leaders for the Bears. The starting senior trio of Hoover, Monahan and senior Bethany Morrison combined for 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. A mark of 25.9 percent shooting in the second half summed up the team’s offensive woes down the stretch.
The Bears end their season at 21-6, while the senior class of Hoover, Monahan, Morrison and Claire Schaeperkoetter end their Wash. U. careers with a record of 101-19, two conference championships and a national championship in 2010.
“They taught me so much about the team and the Bear tradition, and it was great learning from them, and I hope our class can be as successful as them in the future,” Scheppers said.