Women’s basketball wins two on the road, advances to Sweet 16

| Sports Reporter

An old adage about basketball states that while depth is crucial in the regular season to offset injuries and keep players fresh, it loses its importance in the postseason as playing rotations shorten and stars play more minutes. In the opening round of the NCAA Division III national championship tournament, Washington University’s women’s basketball team countered this maxim, relying on its deep corps of reserves for scoring and defense in eking out a pair of wins last weekend.

On Friday, senior Kristin Anda came off the bench to lead the Bears with 16 points and nine rebounds in a 45-40 first-round victory over the University of Texas at Dallas. The next night, a balanced attack and a 50-25 rebounding advantage paved the way for the Red and Green to defeat host Rhodes College, 78-75.

Points were at a premium against UT-Dallas: both teams shot worse than 35 percent from the field, and there was only one made three-pointer in the game. The Bears led 26-23 at halftime but shot a mere 20.6 percent in the second half, and an 11-0 second-half run by the Comets turned the score in their favor.

A layup with 10:34 remaining gave UT-Dallas a 38-34 lead, but it was the last field goal that the Comets managed to score. Anda scored five straight points, and after UT-Dallas regained the lead with two free throws with 6:40 left, junior Jordan Rettig secured an offensive rebound and banked in a layup to give the Bears the lead for good. Later, Anda sank two free throws with 22.9 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and provide the final margin of victory.

Afterward, Anda recalled the words of head coach Nancy Fahey: “The first game is usually the hardest to win because we’re so excited to be in the tournament, and then you get there and you a get a little too amped up.”

“We’re a young team,” she added, “so I was happy to kind of be able to help my team and let them settle in before their next game.”

The Bears feasted on 20 Comet turnovers, which helped offset their poor shooting performance. For only the third time all season, Wash. U. was held without a three-pointer, going a paltry 0-12.

But the Red and Green and their three-point specialist, junior Lucy Montgomery, weren’t concerned. “Friday was just a low-scoring, defensive battle,” she said. “I wasn’t really worried after Friday night because I knew we’re all good shooters; we just had an off night. And we came back [Saturday] and were able to capitalize when they went into that zone by knocking down some open threes.”

When Rhodes, at a severe height disadvantage against the Bears’ tall front line, attempted to counter Wash. U.’s post play by retreating into a 2-3 zone defense, Montgomery entered off the bench and punished the Lynx for their tactic.

She made three three-pointers against the zone before Rhodes switched back to man defense, against which she sank two more. When the barrage was over, she had scored 15 points in only 12 minutes of action; what finally stopped her was a collision with a Rhodes player that left the pinky finger on her shooting hand swollen and made it impossible for her to catch any passes.

“Luckily when I went in, I was able to get some open looks and knock them down,” she said, “and from there you could just see us relax, and I think we got in a really nice offensive flow in the first half.”

In the second half, the Bears repeatedly built a sizable lead before a Rhodes run narrowed the gap. The final such time, Rhodes cut a 69-60 deficit to 72-70 at the final media timeout. After play resumed, the Lynx made a three-pointer to take their first lead of the game, but on the ensuing Wash. U. possession, sophomore Melissa Gilkey found Anda cutting across the paint for a layup to regain the advantage.

In the final minutes, stingy Wash. U. defense and made free throws kept the Lynx at bay, and Rhodes sophomore Lauren Avant, a University of Tennessee transfer who scored 29 points, missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.

“Having these close games is really important come tournament time,” Anda said. “You know, there’s other teams in the bracket that kind of have blowout wins, which is great, but I think for us, it’s good to kind of keep getting tested so after we get to harder and harder games, we’ll have that confidence and knowledge that if we are down by one, we can come back and hold onto that win.”

With Montgomery scratched from second-half action, Gilkey assumed the brunt of the scoring load. The all-conference first-teamer tallied a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, including nine of each in the second half, despite being hampered by foul trouble and illness.

Gilkey went to urgent care to be treated for strep throat immediately after the game’s conclusion. “It’s pretty hard to physically talk right now,” she told Student Life via text message. “To be honest the adrenaline we were all feeling that gme [sic] and the energy my teammates were showing was probably the best thing for me at the time because it helped numb the pain…I was able to stay focused on what was important- the game and my teammates.”

Both Montgomery and Gilkey gave assurances that they would be healthy for the team’s next game, Friday night at No. 1 DePauw University. A full preview will appear in Thursday’s issue of Student Life.