Basketball rolls past Brandeis and NYU, women secure UAA title

| Senior Sports Editor

Traveling northeast for their penultimate regular season weekend, the Washington University men’s and women’s basketball teams arrived in Waltham, Mass., under very different circumstances. The No. 9 women were locked in a dogfight for the University Athletic Association crown with No. 12 University of Rochester while the men, long out of the postseason race, looked to extend their recent run of strong play and put to bed memories of their recent six-game skid. Up against Brandeis University and New York University, both teams got what they came for, securing a pair of victories each. With the victories, and a Rochester loss, the women secured their third straight UAA title and automatic NCAA tournament berth.

Men

Wash. U. def. Brandeis 88-62

Four weeks ago, the Bears’ near-historic losing streak began with a single basket loss to Brandeis. In that game, the Red and Green were outshot, outrebounded and out-clutched on their way to what would be the first of six frustrating losses for Wash. U. Eight games later, a different Bears team took the floor in Waltham, one that shot a season high 66.1 percent from the field and held the Judges to 17 rebounds, the lowest total for any Bears’ opponent since the 2013-14 season.

The Friday night game was a story of frontcourt domination courtesy of junior small forward Clinton Hooks, sophomore power forward Andrew Sanders and sophomore center David Schmelter. The trio combined for 62 points and 23 rebounds all on 78.8 percent shooting from the floor. Hooks supplied a team high 26 points on 10-14 shooting from the field including 4-5 from range. Schmelter added a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with a 7-7 shooting performance and 18 points.

All three were facilitated by sophomore point guard Kevin Kucera who struggled from the field, scoring 10 points on 4-12 shooting but dishing out a career-high-tying 10 assists.

On the defensive end, the Bears enjoyed a plus-24 rebounded margin, the largest gap this season.

The performance by the Bears culminated in 26-point victory, the largest since their season opener against Blackburn College, when they triumphed 90-60.

Wash. U. def. New York University 71-70

During the Bears’ six-game losing streak, they lost four games by a single bucket. This included a 75-72 loss to NYU on Jan. 24. On Sunday, however, it was Wash. U. on the victor’s end of a tight matchup.

Trailing by six points with just under 14 and a half minutes to play, Sanders and Hooks connected on a jump shot and a three pointer, respectively, to spark a 13-4 run and pull ahead by one with 12 minutes to play. The two teams would battle through four ties and four more lead changes before the Bears grinded to a three point lead with one possession left for the Violets. Sanders committed a two-point foul to secure the win.

Hooks and Sanders again were the heroes of the Bears offense with 15 and 12 points, respectively, in the second half. Hooks’ performance came after he was limited to just four minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.

The boost from the two forwards were just enough to push the Bears past an NYU team that shot 43.1 percent from the field, but only hit nine of their 21 free throws. Meanwhile, the Bears took advantage of the uncontested opportunities, connecting on 19 of their 27 attempts from the charity stripe.

Sanders recorded his 11th double-double of the season, finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds, while Hooks netted 21 points in just 21 minutes.

Sophomore point guard Kevin Kucera struggled from the floor again with a 2-12 shooting performance but dished out seven assists, his fourth straight game of seven-plus assists.

With wins against Brandeis and NYU, the Bears improve to 6-7 in the UAA and 14-10 overall. The Bears have never suffered a losing record in the UAA.

For the final game of the season, the Bears travel North on I-55 to visit the University of Chicago for a Saturday afternoon contest. Last time these two teams faced off, Wash. U. suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss on a last-second three.

Women

Wash. U. def. Brandeis 65-49

Over the past several weeks, sophomore guard Natalie Orr instantiated herself as one of the primary scoring options for the defensive-minded Bears team. However, she did not travel this weekend due to foot pain. Up the Charles River without Orr, the Bears still managed to triumph over Brandeis thanks to a pair of strong performances from senior guard Jordan Thompson and junior forward Lily Sarros.

The Bears led from wire to wire as Thompson caught fire early, connecting on 4-6 from the field and 2-3 from beyond the arc on her way to 10 points in the opening quarter. She would finish with a team-high 19 points and four assists on 6-13 shooting.

Sarros lead a strong inside presence from the Bears that outscored the Judges 28-12 in the paint. The forward finished with her second career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 15 boards. Helped along by senior forward Amanda Martinez, who pulled down 10 rebounds, the Red and Green outrebounded Brandeis 39-27.

Wash. U. def No. 22 New York University 66-53

Against the Violets, the Bears secured their fourth-straight win, thanks to a pair of strong performances from Thompson and junior forward Zoe Vernon. Thompson and Vernon combined to score the Bears’ first 15 points of the game and finished the first half with 12 points apiece. With Orr, the Bear’s primary sharpshooter, still out of the lineup, the duo found success from range hitting 4-7 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half.

Thompson would finish with a season-high 23 points, but committed six turnovers, tying a career high. Vernon finished with a career-high 18 points on 4-8 shooting and six rebounds. While the pair paced the Bears’ offense, the team as a whole forced 19 turnovers.

With the two wins and the Rochester loss, the Bears have improved to 20-4 overall, 11-2 in the conference, and secured their third consecutive UAA title and tournament berth.

Orr will be receiving an MRI on her foot with her status up in the air for the upcoming week.

For the final game of their regular season, the Bears will travel to Chicago to square off against the Maroons.

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