Women’s basketball bounces back with two big wins

| Senior Sports Editor
Sahil Patel | Student Life
Freshman Jordan Thompson drives through the paint against Carnegie Mellon University on Feb. 1. Thompson had a career-high 16 points and a team-leading seven assists in the 85-54 Bears’ victory.

Days after the Washington University women’s basketball team suffered a historic 72-68 loss to conference foe Case Western Reserve University, head coach Nancy Fahey decided it was time for a change or two.

Based on this past weekend’s results, maybe she should consider making the changes permanent.

The No. 12 Bears came out and won two games at home, easily beating Carnegie Mellon University 85-54 on Friday before exacting their revenge on Case Western with a 58-35 win on Sunday. The wins move the Bears to 17-3 this season and 7-2 in University Athletic Association play.

“We needed to refocus ourselves in practice—how I actually organize practice—and basically what I did was put them back to competition, and that’s what you saw tonight, a more competitive team,” Fahey said about the week of preparation.

While the Bears never seemed to be in danger against Carnegie Mellon—they never trailed and had a double-digit lead for the final 30:09 of the game—it was an interesting matchup in the post as the Tartans had a 44-43 rebounding edge over Wash. U., which entered the night with the second-best rebound margin in Division III. Regardless, the frontcourt of sophomore Melissa Gilkey (12 points, four rebounds) and junior Jordan Rettig (eight and two) did a satisfactory job matching up with the Tartans’ bigs.

“No doubt we don’t want to get outrebounded, but I thought with the game plan and how they controlled [CMU senior Emily] Peel, who’s a very good inside post player for them, I thought they did a good job,” Fahey said.

Meanwhile, with sophomore Alexandra Keane still out with an injury, freshman point guard Jordan Thompson had her best game as a Bear: her 16 points—a career-high—and seven assists both led the Bears.

“Penetrate, kick, penetrate and then they back off, and that’s when you get the shot,” Thompson said. “You’ve just got to take what the defense gives you.”

Wash. U. shot 44.3 percent overall and 33.3 percent from three-point range, compared to 29.1 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively, for Carnegie Mellon.

Sunday’s win over Case Western—in a game that Fahey acknowledged the team, hungry for revenge, was particularly fired up for—was a bit more typical for the team this season, as it featured strangling defense and strong post play. The Bears dominated the Spartans on the glass, with a 61-36 rebounding edge, and the team was led by Gilkey’s 14 points and Rettig’s double-double (11 points, 12 boards).

“I really felt like our posts today could control their posts,” Fahey said. “They’re good posts, but I felt like we could handle them if we kept them away from being too deep.”

The game certainly plodded along at times offensively as Wash. U.’s unenviable shooting percentage of 31 percent looked excellent compared to Case Western’s mark of 21.8 percent. The Bears really created their advantage late in the first half when the Spartans went without a field goal for a span of 8:26.

“Playing as a team is the biggest thing,” Rettig said about busting the shooting slump. “If our outside shots aren’t falling, inside will work. Working the ball around, looking for open shots, I think we did a good job of that.”

Perhaps no one set of stats summed up the Bears’ defensive efforts—and, in turn, Case Western’s offensive struggles—on the day better than the stat line of UAA scoring leader Evy Iacono, who went zero-for-11 from the field and finished with only two points.

“We went into the game wanting to do that exact thing,” Gilkey said of shutting down Iacono. “We scouted her hard so we knew how she played; we knew her tendencies and her favorite things to do.”

Wash. U. is back in action next weekend with contests against the two teams competing with them for the conference title: Emory University, which leads the UAA with an 8-1 conference record, and Rochester University, which sits tied with Wash. U. at 7-2. Two wins would put the Bears on the inside track to at least a share of the conference title.

And while with the new opponents the game plan changes, the mental approach does not.

“There has to be a game plan that’s different, obviously, but the intensity is what we’re talking about,” Fahey said. “How hard are we going to play? Measure our season on our effort, not our wins and losses, and that’s where we are.”