Late efforts not enough for women’s basketball in weekend losses

| Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University women’s basketball team fell short twice over the weekend, losing two tight games to University Athletic Association opponents.

The Bears faltered in the fourth quarter against Brandeis University on Friday night, allowing the Judges to put up 27 points in just 10 minutes and falling, 86-81. Then they played from behind the whole way on Sunday, nearly clawing back from a 12-point deficit before losing, 81-77. With the losses, the Bears fell to 8-8 on the season and 1-4 in the UAA.

“I feel like we’re really close and I hope that our kids do too,” head coach Randi Henderson said after Sunday’s game.

Curran Neenan

Women’s basketball players fixate on the action during Wash. U.’s Sunday game against New York University. The Bears clawed back late, but the Violets stifled the comeback and won, 81-77.

Sophomore Samantha Weaver, who had 16 points against Brandeis and 11 against NYU, echoed Henderson’s remarks. “We’re so close and are getting better each time,” Weaver said Sunday. “There are just minor things that are causing us to lose by four points, three points. But the team is getting better and I can be happy about that.”

The weekend had gotten off to a promising start in the first quarter Friday night, with a back-and-forth battle ending in a Wash. U. lead, 22-20. Then Brandeis started making three-pointers. The Judges had not made any of their four long-range attempts in the first quarter, but they connected four times in the second, outscoring the Bears to take the lead going into halftime, 44-41.

Wash. U. took back the lead in the third quarter. Weaver made two free throws to go ahead before freshman Naomi Jackson sank a three-pointer with 35 seconds left to extend the Bears’ lead to five points. That was as high as the margin got, however, as things quickly deteriorated for Wash. U. in the final period.

The Judges connected from behind the arc on two of their first three possessions, immediately erasing the Bears’ lead. It was a seesaw battle after that, but Brandeis pulled away, riding a 53.8% field goal percentage to a 27-point fourth quarter and the win.

“You’re not going to win that many games giving up 27 points in a quarter,” Henderson said wryly after the game. She emphasized that the team, which played just three non-freshmen all weekend, is still learning and growing. “It’s just about having mental focus for four quarters. It takes a lot of practice,” she said, observing that the college season is an adjustment for younger players since it is much longer than most players’ high school seasons.

Senior Kristina Schmelter, who had a double-double against Brandeis with 11 points and 14 rebounds, posited that the Bears’ fourth quarter foul trouble contributed to the team’s demise. Brandeis took 31 shots from the line, including 14 in the fourth quarter, while the Bears had just 19. “Definitely just being able to guard without fouling is huge,” Schmelter said. “I think that’s definitely one of the things we’ve got to improve on going forward.”

Fouls were less of an issue for the Bears on Sunday, as they held NYU to 18 shots from the line. Still, after the game Henderson emphasized discipline as an area where improvement is necessary. “Today, just like against Brandeis, there’s five possessions where if we take care of the ball a little better, we don’t foul under six, we don’t give up an offensive rebound at a critical time that gives them a three, we win the game,” she said.

The first half was another tug-of-war, with the two teams trading leads throughout the second quarter. NYU took a six point lead into the lockers after freshman Jenny Walker had a standout first half, scoring 14 points on 6-9 shooting.

A few minutes of full-court press at the beginning of the third quarter brought Wash. U. life after halftime, allowing the Bears to settle in on an 8-2 run in just under two minutes. The press was not sustainable for much longer than that, however, Henderson said after the game. “If you play pretty fast you get pretty tired,” she said, observing that a few of the Violets had become comfortable with the press after a few possessions, allowing them open looks at three-pointers.

It seemed as if every time Wash. U. secured a bucket, NYU answered with one of its own. The Bears could not build up momentum until late in the game, after it was too late. Relying mainly on free throws (they had eight in a two and a half minute span) and three-pointers, NYU had expanded its lead to 12 points with just over a minute to play. Three-pointers from freshmen Molly Gannon, Sammi Matoush and Raevyn Ferguson brought the Bears within striking range in the game’s waning seconds, but the efforts were for naught, as the buzzer struck just after Ferguson’s shot sailed through the net.

Though the Bears nearly matched the Violets’ field goal percentage (NYU made 43.8% of its shots, whereas Wash. U. made 43.1%), they had many fewer opportunities than their opponent. NYU took 95 shots on the day, while the Bears had just 76.

Henderson remained optimistic as she looked forward to next weekend’s games, a Friday evening matchup against University of Rochester before another Sunday game against conference leader Emory University (which is 14-2 and undefeated in UAA play).

“The game of basketball is nice. It gives you another opportunity to get better in practices and games,” Henderson said. “I think that mentally, the girls have to come back hungry and ready to fight. That’s part of the mental battle of playing athletics or doing anything that’s challenging you. I’m sure here, academically, people have faced many failures in their classes and they still have to show up the next day.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.