Women’s basketball salvages split on road

Eric Chalifour

Freshman Jodan Thompson goes up for a shot against Emory University during the Bears’ Feb. 8 win over Emory University. On the road over the weekend, the team split a pair of games with Brandeis Univeristy and New York University.

The last time Washington University’s women’s basketball team faced New York University and Brandeis University in a pair of weekend matchups, the Bears cruised to 29- and 32-point wins, respectively. On the road against those same two teams this past weekend, however, the Red and Green managed only a split, falling 67-59 to NYU and scraping out a 62-57 victory over Brandeis.

Against NYU on Friday, the Bears led 31-18 late in the first half, but a 17-4 run by the Violets that spanned both halves knotted the score at 35 with 14:59 remaining in the game. The margin stayed within two points for the next eight minutes before a 9-0 run gave NYU the lead for good. With 2:13 left, Wash. U. pulled within three points after a transition three-pointer by freshman Jordan Thompson, but another 9-0 run by the Violets advanced the lead to double digits and left the Red and Green unable to complete the comeback.

Sophomore Maddy Scheppers led Wash. U. with 14 points, but her presence as the only Bear in double figures signified the team’s scoring struggles. The Red and Green shot 34.3 percent and made as many shots (24) as did NYU despite taking 21 more attempts.

NYU entered the game with only one conference win so far, making the upset especially unlikely. Combined with the Bears’ home loss to the University of Rochester the prior weekend, it marked the first time since December 2008 that Wash. U. lost back-to-back games.

Even more unlikely would have been a win by Brandeis on Sunday. Wash. U. hasn’t lost three consecutive games in head coach Nancy Fahey’s 27-year tenure; the last time such a losing trifecta occurred for the program was 1983, which was also the team’s last losing season.

Through 38 minutes of the game, though, another upset loss seemed to be in the works. A one-point halftime lead for the Bears had at one point blossomed into a nine-point margin, but Brandeis fought back with a 10-1 run to tie the game at 54.

Scheppers hit an open three-pointer with 1:58 left to regain the lead, though, and moments later, senior Nishi Tavernier scored her first points of the weekend on a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to clinch the victory.

Sophomore Melissa Gilkey bounced back from a subpar performance against NYU—only the second time all season that she failed to reach double digits in points—to score a game-high 20 points. Scheppers added 14 and a game-high seven rebounds, and senior Kristin Anda provided a boost off the bench with 13 points and six boards.

Wash. U. still struggled from the field, though, managing a 35.5 percent mark. “It’s just the comfort of being at home versus traveling,” Anda said to explain the road woes. “I think the second go around, you know, the other teams can make adjustments…when you beat a team by a lot, they’re going to come back at you harder the next time, so we just needed to be ready for that.”

Yet offense was not the biggest problem this weekend; rather, the Red and Green more noticeably struggled to force their opponents into taking difficult shots. NYU shot 49 percent for the game, highlighted by a scorching 65 percent in the second half as the Violets opened up their lead. For comparison, when the teams met in the Washington University Field House a month ago, NYU managed only a 28 percent mark.

The Bears’ defense didn’t improve on Sunday, allowing Brandeis to shoot 50 percent from the field, a vast improvement upon the teams’ first meeting, when the Judges put up a paltry 16.9 percent.

“I think we just got mixed up sometimes,” Anda explained. “It wasn’t for lack of effort…you’ve got to give credit to NYU and Brandeis for coming back at us with some good plays and getting to the basket sometimes when we didn’t make our full rotations.”

The shooting disparity could also be due to the home-road differences that plagued Wash. U., Anda added: “On their home court, they can shoot and be more comfortable.”

Next week against the University of Chicago—Wash. U.’s last game of the regular season—the Bears will face a challenge similar to this weekend’s, albeit this time in the Field House. They defeated Chicago 96-67 in January but now have to defeat a team familiar with and game-planning against them.

“We want to prove to ourselves that we can beat a team handily two times in a row,” Anda said. “I think it’ll help that we’re at home, too.”