Women’s basketball suffers loss to Rochester before fighting back to beat Emory
The Washington University women’s basketball team split its University Athletic Association road trip this weekend, losing a blowout to the University of Rochester on Friday, 88-64, and then defeating Emory University on Sunday, 72-61.
With the two games, the Bears advance to 11-9 on the season and 4-5 in the UAA, keeping them in contention thanks to bunching in the conference, which has a three-way tie for first place and no clear leader with just five games to go in the regular season. Wash. U. trails first place by just two games, though the Red and Green still must face two of the top teams, the University of Chicago and New York University.
Wash. U. and Rochester were neck-and-neck at the beginning of the game, but the Bears soon fell behind and never climbed back into the game. The Yellowjackets led by nine points after the first 10 minutes. That lead ballooned to 14 points in the second quarter. Rochester withstood a Bears counterattack late in the first half, taking a 42-32 advantage into the locker room.
The Bears drew within ten points, 53-43, with 1:54 left in the third quarter on a layup from freshman Maya Arnott, but that was as close as they got. Arnott, who has emerged over the last four games as a leading player in the paint, finished with 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. The double-double was the first of her career.
Senior Kristina Schmelter also had a double-double, scoring 12 points and securing ten rebounds. She leads the UAA in double-doubles with six on the year, twice the number of the second-best players. Schmelter has started all 20 of the Bears’ games this season and scored double digits in all but four.
Turnovers were a major problem for the Bears against Rochester. Wash. U. gave the ball away 23 times, and the Yellowjackets took advantage, scoring 29 points off turnovers. “We just were really loose with the ball and were not really owning our catches and owning our space on our catches,” head coach Randi Henderson said. “We were letting them rush us and not being very disciplined offensively.”
While the Wash. U. remains the highest-scoring team in the UAA, the Bears are also still the worst defensive team in the conference, giving up 74.2 points per game. Rochester’s 88 points were the most the Bears have allowed since the opening game of the season, a Nov. 15 loss to Loras College, 93-81.
That defense was much more effective when the Bears faced Emory in Atlanta. After allowing the Yellowjackets to connect on 11 of their 26 three-point attempts on Friday night, Wash. U. held the Eagles to just four from long range on Sunday (16%). The Red and Green committed just eight turnovers at Emory and limited the Eagles’ opportunities when they did turn the ball over, permitting just six points off turnovers.
“Today was a good bounce-back game from a pretty tough game for us at Rochester,” Henderson said after the Emory game. “[The players] knew they had to be a lot better against Emory, and they definitely were.”
The game was knotted for the entire first half, with neither team establishing more than a five-point lead. Wash. U. took control out of the locker rooms though, going on a 12-2 run in the first five minutes of the second half to jump out to a lead they never relinquished. “We stuck to the game plan, guarded extremely well and we got to the free throw line. We were really aggressive in the second half,” Henderson said.
Wash. U. relied heavily on its starters Sunday, with just six players playing 92.5% of the team’s total time on the court. Henderson explained that a confluence of conveniently-timed dead balls and well-chosen timeouts enabled the Bears to leave in a group of players who were having success. “Especially in the second half, where I could stretch those minutes a little bit and they were playing so well together, as a coach you always want to play the players that are playing the best and playing the best together. That group was playing very well together,” she said, referring to the starters (Arnott, Schmelter, sophomore Samantha Weaver and freshmen Molly Gannon and Sammi Matoush) and senior Camille Keane, who had 24 minutes off the bench.
Schmelter and Weaver led the Bears in scoring, each collecting 16 points, while Gannon and Matoush followed close behind with 14 each. Schmelter had yet another double double, securing 11 rebounds.
Poor shooting from behind the arc, however, marked both games (27.8% on Friday and then 11.1%, a season-low, on Sunday), but Henderson seemed unflustered. “I think our whole league shot poorly this weekend. Sometimes it’s timing in the season, sometimes it’s the travel. I thought today we got good looks and they just didn’t fall for us.”
The Bears will play their final two regular season home games next weekend, taking on Case Western Reserve University on Friday and Carnegie Mellon University on Sunday. They lost to Case and beat Carnegie Mellon during the first round of the UAA schedule.
“I feel like we are definitely getting better, which is the most important thing,” Henderson said. “I think if our players decide they want to put it together, anybody has a chance at going on a run to win the [UAA] title.”