Men’s basketball bounces back with two clutch conference wins

and | Contributing Writers

Junior Hayden Doyle takes a tough midrange jumper on Jan. 28 against Case Western Reserve University (Jialing Sun | Student Life)

Trailing by one point with less than ten seconds to go in overtime, dropping the game to the No. 2 Case Western Reserve University Spartans would have been a heartbreaker for the No. 22 Washington University men’s basketball team. Down by double digits early, the Bears had rallied to cut the lead to 7 by halftime. Down 3 with a little over 2 minutes left in regulation, WashU had once again come back to tie the game with 53 seconds left. Down 2 with 12 seconds left in overtime, junior guard Kyle Beedon hit a huge three to give the Bears a one-point lead. And yet, none of it would have mattered if the Spartans had held on to their 86-85 lead with time running out. Hayden Doyle had other plans.

“I don’t know how many minutes I played, but my legs were pretty tired,” Doyle said after the game.

It sure didn’t seem like it. With five seconds remaining, the junior guard — who averages 15.3 points to go along with 3.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game — sunk a contested jumper a few feet from the basket to give the Bears a lead they would not relinquish.

“Just so happy we got that team win and were able to finish it,” Doyle said after recording 21 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks in a season-high 42 minutes. “They’re a really good team, they made some tough shots, a lot of threes and we had some mistakes defensively that we had to clean up…but it’s a long game, keep making the right play, and it paid off at the end.”

Sunday’s win against a UAA-leading Case Western squad, along with a win Friday night against the gritty Carnegie Mellon University Tartans, capped off a season-defining weekend for the Bears. After junior star forward Drake Kindsvater went down for the season with an injury and the team suffered back-to-back UAA losses last weekend, bouncing back at home was critical.

Freshman forward George Gale throws it down against Carnegie Mellon University on Jan. 26 (Elaheh Khazi | Student Life)

WashU v. Carnegie Mellon

Friday night’s game had added significance for the Bears, as it was the first annual HardyStrong game, honoring the legacy of the late Justin Hardy. The night began with the WashU community coming together to donate over $7,000 to the HardyStrong Foundation. 

After a moving pregame ceremony, the packed fieldhouse crowd was eager for the Bears, who entered conference play at just 2-3, to get the win. With starters Hayden Doyle, Kyle Beedon, Yogi Oliff, Will Grudzinski, and Calvin Kapral, the Bears got out to a quick 10-4 lead within the first four minutes, led by eight early points from the sophomore forward Grudzinski. For the next eight minutes, WashU and Carnegie Mellon exchanged baskets resulting in a 24-22 lead for the Tartans.

A 9-0 run largely engineered by the Bears’ bench put WashU up 31-24. With both teams locked into a high-scoring affair, Carnegie Mellon rallied back to tie the game at 40 apiece. After a nice screen and curl around, Kyle Beedon hit a three with four seconds remaining in the half, enabling the Bears to go up 47-42. 

The Bears opened the second half strong, taking a 56-45 lead with 17:00 left on the clock. After going back and forth for the next couple of minutes, Carnegie Mellon went on an 11-0 run, tying the game at 65 each. While the barrage of threes and layups continued and both teams struggled to guard the perimeter, Bears senior Jabari Chiphe manned Carnegie Mellon’s leading offensive force, Justin Allen, in the clutch. Though Allen finished with 28 points, Chiphe held him to just six points in the final ten minutes. This allowed WashU to attack the other end, going on a 7-0 run and leading 91-83 after a huge 3-pointer from Grudzinski, a Doyle jump shot, and an Oliff layup. With the help of an excited and roaring crowd, the Bears finished strong to win with a final score of 95-87. The win was spearheaded by Chiphe, who recorded a career-high 16 points off the bench.

When asked about his phenomenal performance, Chiphe said the key was “trusting my teammates. I know they trust me. We all put a lot of work in and we are a deep team.” 

The depth of this Bears roster was on full display Friday as Grudzinski, Dolye, and Beedon all reached double-digits in points as well. 

“It was truly a Justin Hardy day in every way,” head coach Pat Juckem said about Friday’s win. Honoring Justin Hardy with his family in attendance was moving for many of the WashU community members in attendance. After the game, Juckem described how the journey of being with Hardy and watching him persevere “gives us purpose,” and mentioned that the team has a “responsibility to carry on his legacy.” For the Bears, getting the win was just the cherry on top of a special night.

Senior forward Jabari Chiphe attacks the rim against Case Western Reserve University on Jan. 28 (Isabella Mira-Diaz | Student Life)

WashU v. Case Western

Playing again on Sunday, the Bears fell behind early by 16 points, and a full team effort in the clutch was required to mount the comeback. Of course, the OT game-winner from Doyle was vital, but to reach that point, WashU called on the entire team. As soon as OT started, center Calvin Kapral began to take over. The sophomore, who’s averaging 9.3 points and 3.9 rebounds a game, scored 7 straight for the Bears to start overtime, finishing with a team-high 23 points. He paved the way for a clutch 3-pointer from Beedon that gave the Bears a momentary lead, and tough team defense forced a long three from Case Western that resulted in a miss to end the game. 

“I thought our process was pretty good,” said head coach Pat Juckem on the early deficit. “We had a good last five minutes in that first half defensively…Credit to our guys for being very poised, mature for their age, and know[ing] there’s a lot of possessions in this game.”

Maturity and growth have started to become a trend for the Bears. Senior forward Jabari Chiphe continued to impress in extended minutes, following up his performance on Friday with 13 points and 4 rebounds in 19 minutes of play

“I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight Jabari Chiphe,” said Juckem after the game. “He had a remarkable weekend…He just gets it. Sometimes he wasn’t getting many opportunities to play, and you would never know that from his body language, his positivity, and his leadership.”

Doyle highlighted the play of Chiphe after Sunday’s win, as well as the play of other teammates. 

“Big Calvin was incredible. He’s a beast, man. He worked so hard in the off-season so he deserves all of it. Kyle with a huge shot, Yogi with some huge plays, it was a great team win,” Doyle said.

The two wins this weekend helped launch the Bears to a 4-3 conference record, which puts them level with Case Western and the University of Chicago for second in the UAA. Next weekend, they will travel to face the same two opponents once again. They will look to extend their win streak to three on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET (6:30 CST) at Carnegie Mellon.

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