Men’s basketball honors its seniors with weekend sweep of Case, CMU

Miguel Campos | Staff Reporter

The Washington University men’s basketball team kept pace with rival Emory University in its regular season home finales this weekend, beating Case Western Reserve University, 77-71, and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), 99-68, to remain tied with Emory University atop the University Athletic Association.

With the wins, the Bears capped their five seniors’ home careers on a high note. Prior to Sunday’s matchup against CMU, they recognized senior guards Matt Nester and Jonathan Arenas, forwards Louis Reinmiller and DeVaughn Rucker and center Hank Hunter. Throughout the last four years, the players have helped lead the Bears to a 78-22 program record.

Curran Neenan | Student Life

Jonathan Arenas drives baseline around a Carnegie Mellon University defender on Senior Night, Feb. 16. The Bears won 99-68.

“They’re fantastic in every way and they’ve challenged me to become a better coach,” head coach Pat Juckem said. “[They] have set such a great example for our underclassmen in terms of how to invest; they care about their teammates.”

Sophomore guard Charlie Jacob also had high praise for the seniors. “I mean, as a student here, you go through a lot of ups and downs and these have been some of my closest friends in the whole world,” he said, observing that it was hard to describe the impact the players have had on him. “They’ve been so instrumental in my growth and the formation of myself as not only a basketball player, but as a human being,” he said.

The Red and Green opened the weekend by facing off against Case on Friday. The Spartans had come into the weekend with a three-game winning streak, but the Bears quickly jumped ahead, keeping an early lead intact for the better part of the first half. A slurry of Spartans three pointers, however, slowly but surely allowed them to crawl back, taking their first lead with just over six minutes to play in the half. With this momentum shift, along with Wash. U.’s rushed play (they allowed 18 points off of ten turnovers), Case led, 43-39, going into the locker room.

“A lot of those turnovers were us kind of forcing the action,” Juckem said. “I thought at times, we played a little rushed. And we can do that at times, we get a little bit sped up.”

Wash. U. clamped up on the defensive side of the ball after halftime, dropping the Case field goal percentage from 50% in the first half to 34.4% in the second half. The Bears reclaimed the lead five minutes after Jacob sunk a shot from behind the arc.

“We felt they were playing at a rhythm [in the first half] and we wanted to disrupt that,” Arenas said about the adjustments the Bears made at halftime. He sat out the game with an Achilles injury before coming back Sunday.

It would be an understatement to say that the game was a back-and-forth battle that came down to the last few minutes, as the game featured 14 lead changes. While the teams continued to lay blows on each other, Wash. U. finally got the needed separation that it needed thanks to junior guard Jack Nolan. His three-pointer with 29 seconds to go in regulation propelled Wash. U. to the victory, marking the 11th straight game that the Bears have taken from the Spartans.

Nolan led the team with 18 points (14 of which came in the second half, mirroring a trend that has developed this season), while Rucker and junior guard Payden Webb also scored in double digits, with 17 and 11 points, respectively.

Hunter appeared to aggravate a shoulder injury on a hustle offensive board a few plays into the second half. The injury had kept him out of five conference games earlier this year, but he had played the last three games and started the last two. He did not return to the game.

“[Hunter] is in day-to-day mode,” Juckem said. “He’s just really battled this all year long, and I really think our guys were even extra inspired…[Hunter] has made a huge impact on this team, even when he hasn’t been playing.”

The second game paired the Bears against a CMU team which, prior to this weekend, was struggling against its UAA opponents, possessing a 3-7 conference record. However, fresh off their win against the University of Chicago on Friday, the Tartans came into Sunday’s matinee looking to turn a new leaf with a victory over Wash. U.

Wash. U. made sure that did not happen, going on an 8-0 run to open the game and never relinquishing the lead. They drained 54.3% of their first half field goal attempts and connected on six shots from behind the arc.

Coming back from the halftime break with a 45-32 lead, the Bears continued to apply copious amounts of pressure. The Tartans did little to cut into the lead. The deficit continued to grow, eventually granting Wash. U. a smooth-sailing victory with a final score of 99-68.

Rucker and Hardy led the game with 17 points each, with Webb, Nolan and sophomore forward Kameron Mack also scoring in double digits for the Red and Green.

Emory University also won its two games this weekend, so Wash. U. remains tied with the Eagles in first place of the UAA. Three games remain in the regular season, and the Bears lost both of their games to Emory, so Wash. U. will be hoping that the Eagles drop one of their remaining games.

Still, the focus is on what the team can affect. “We have a saying. Be where your feet are,” Juckem said. “We can’t control what anybody else does. All we can control is how we play and how we prepare and how we go about our business.”

“There’s no pressure,” Jacob said. “Every week in practice, we try and stick to our principles, we go out there and play as hard as we can and it usually takes care of itself. Obviously, these are ‘must-win games,’ but we don’t feel any pressure. We’re just out there having fun.”

The Bears face Brandeis University on the Judges’ home turf this Friday, Feb. 21 at 7:00 p.m. CST.

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