Bears run table at Lopata Classic

| Sports Reporter
The top-ranked Washington University men’s basketball team defeated Hamilton College and Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) over the weekend at the 25th Annual Lopata Classic to improve to 7-0 for the season.

The Bears cruised to an 85-57 victory over Hamilton (4-1) on Friday night in the season’s home opener and then knocked off No. 13 Illinois Wesleyan (3-2) in a back-and-forth battle 93-86 on Saturday afternoon at the Wash. U. Field House.

Against Hamilton, five Bears scored in double figures, led by senior forward Tyler Nading’s 16 points and 10 rebounds. Senior point guard Sean Wallis added 10 points and four assists, while freshman guard Dylan Richter and sophomore forward Caleb Knepper each had 11 points off the bench. Freshman forward Alex Toth added 10 more points from the bench in the rout.

The Red and Green wasted no time pulling ahead of Hamilton, taking a 13-4 lead five minutes into the game on a Wallis three-pointer. The first half lead grew to as high as 20 after a jumper by Toth put Wash. U. up 39-19.

Hamilton cut the lead to 49-34 and pulled within 10 points less than seven minutes into the second half. Wash. U., however, responded with a 14-0 run during which five different players scored, extending the lead to 69-45.

Wash. U.’s bench outscored Hamilton’s 46-19, and the team out-rebounded the Continentals 49-21. The Bears entered the game out-rebounding their opponents by an average of 11.2 boards a game this season.

“This year we’ve just been controlling the glass,” Wallis said. “It’s not a coincidence that we’re 6-0 because, especially in…tight games, we do a great job keeping teams from getting second chances.”

The Red and Green faced a much tougher challenge against Illinois Wesleyan (IWU) on Saturday. Both teams entered the game averaging more than 80 points per game, and in the first half, their offenses did not disappoint, both shooting more than 50 percent from the field.

IWU jumped out to an early 11-6 lead, but Richter kept Wash. U. in the game by pouring in 11 points in the first 8:02. A Richter layup on a dish from Wallis cut the Titans’ lead to 22-19, and the Bears tied the score at 29-29 on a layin by junior forward Zach Kelly.

The two sides traded buckets for the next six minutes of play before Knepper drilled a long three-pointer at the 2:47 mark to give Wash. U. its first lead at 41-39 since the opening minutes of the game. The Bears took a 46-43 lead into halftime despite trailing most of the first half.

IWU struggled out of the gate in the second half, and Wash. U. built a nine-point lead, its largest of the game. The Titans got back on track, tying the score at 59-59 on a layup by Edmund O’Callaghan and then taking their first lead of the second half on a pair of Sean Dwyer free throws to go up 63-62.

The Red and Green once again pulled ahead, going back up by nine points on a Toth layup to make the score 80-71, but Illinois Wesleyan went on a 7-0 run to pull within two points.

With the score at 83-80, junior forward Cameron Smith saved an errant pass from going out of bounds and tossed it to Nading with just four seconds remaining on the shot clock. Nading launched and drilled a deep three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put the Red and Green up 86-80 and effectively seal the victory.

“That was a great play by Cam,” Nading said. “I got the ball and saw [that] we didn’t have any time left on the shot clock, so I just kind of let it go. Fortunately, I practice those in practice.”

Smith’s two free throws with 13.5 seconds remaining gave the Bears 93-86 victory, their 13th straight win dating back to last season.

Nading finished the game with 20 points and nine rebounds while junior guard Aaron Thompson added 16 points and 10 assists and Richter poured in a career-high 15 points.

“[Illinois Wesleyan] is a good team, they’re well-coached and there are a lot of relationships between the two teams. Some of these kids have grown up with each other,” Head Coach Mark Edwards said. “We’ve always had a great rivalry with them, and it was a lot of fun.”

Despite the victories, the Bears did suffer a scare when Wallis went down late in the second half and left the court limping. He did not return and was diagnosed with a sprained knee.

“Sean is doing okay,” Edwards said. “Obviously I was concerned about him…but it’s nothing too serious.”

Wash. U. returns to action on Saturday, Dec. 13 at 3 p.m. at home against Fontbonne University. The Bears defeated Fontbonne 73-57 last season and are 9-1 all-time against the Griffins.

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