Men’s basketball drops back-to-back games during UAA road trip

and | Staff Writer and Contributing Writer

Will Grudzinski drives to the basket during last week’s game against Carnegie Mellon. (Elaheh Khazi | Student Life)

After ending the first half down 12, the Washington University men’s basketball team fought tooth and nail to claw their way back into a tough University Athletic Association (UAA) matchup against the Carnegie Mellon University Tartans. With 10 minutes remaining, their hard work paid off, as the Bears jumped ahead of their hosts 58–56. 

However, five minutes later, the Tartans pulled back ahead with 4:38 on the clock after a three-pointer gave them a 70–68 lead. The Bears have become used to comebacks in their tight UAA season, but as the clock wound down, they were unable to pull out a win this time. Carnegie Mellon held on for a 79–73 victory. 

Two days later, on Feb. 4, the Bears’ struggles were compounded by a 74–59 loss to No. 10 Case Western Reserve University. After entering the weekend 4–3 in conference play, the Bears fell to 4–5 and know that picking up more wins down the stretch will be a difficult task. 

“The [UAA] is so balanced from top to bottom that there are no easy games,” said junior guard Hayden Doyle. “Every team is capable of winning any given game.”

Lately, the Bears have increasingly counted on Doyle for production after an injury to the team’s leading scorer, junior Drake Kindsvater. Doyle, who averages 14.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, has been hot too, coming off of a 21-point performance against Case Western in an overtime win last weekend. This time, however, the Bears came up short.

Though Carnegie Mellon outscored the Bears 41–29 in the first half, an 18–3 run a couple of minutes into the second half put the Bears in control. Junior guard Kyle Beedon capped off the run, converting back-to-back threes to give the Bears the 61–56 advantage. 

Beedon’s long-range shooting has become more and more of a trend for the Bears, as the guard has taken at least six three-pointers per contest over the last seven games, with his volume increasing in each of the last four. Beedon, who joined the starting five in Kindsvater’s absence, is shooting at a high level, at 38.5% from beyond the arc and 41.1% in UAA play.

“I feel like I’ve gotten into a good rhythm recently which has led to me being more aggressive,” Beedon said. “My teammates are looking for me and it’s been so much fun out there.”

The game would remain close from that point in the second half, with each team trading baskets until a little under five minutes to go. However, a three-pointer from Carnegie Mellon’s Justin Allen gave the Tartans a 70–68 lead that they would not relinquish. The Bears, who completed a double-digit turnaround against Case Western last week, were unable to finish the job this time. 

It was the second straight weekend where WashU played both Carnegie Mellon and Case Western, though Doyle does not think it affected the game much.

“It’s a tough turnaround playing the same teams [on] back-to-back weekends,” he said. “We make a couple [of] adjustments but it’s pretty similar as far as our preparation goes. We just need to compete super hard and execute.” 

However, Beedon noted that the back-to-back weekends did add an extra layer to their preparation.

“It becomes a very technical game; we are even more focused on their offensive schemes than usual,” Beedon said about facing the same teams frequently. “It feels like we’ve seen the film clips of last week’s games a hundred times now.”

After losing the lead, the Bears could not make the necessary plays to pull out with a win. Fouls, multiple possessions prolonged by offensive rebounds, and missed free throws built up, resulting in a loss that could have easily gone the other way.

Sophomore Yogi Oliff charges up the court. (Isabella Diaz-Mira | Student Life)

On Sunday, the Bears looked to right the ship against Case Western. However, they fell behind early in the game, with the Spartans opening play on a 14–0 run. The Bears trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, which  also occurred in their game against Case Western a week ago. In the game last Sunday, WashU eventually won in overtime.

After two three-pointers in the first-half for Beedon and Doyle, respectively, it looked as if Sunday’s game was leading to a similarly close finish. The Bears had responded with a 19–5 run to cut the deficit to just two points late in the first half. 

“We knew that they would have a run and that we would have to respond,” Beedon said. “That didn’t really change in the second game.”

Entering halftime, WashU trailed by only four points, 34–30. This time, however, the Spartans pulled away in the second half. Case Western worked their lead back up to 15 points midway through the second half and never looked back.

“We knew we had to do a better job of rebounding and just getting stops overall,” Beedon said. “I wouldn’t say we adjusted too much, we just had to scratch and crawl our way back.”

Ultimately, Doyle led the team with 15 points while Beedon added 14 points, 12 of which came from beyond the arc.

WashU was able to hold Case Western’s leading scorer, graduate student Anthony Mazzeo, to just nine points, down from his average of 19.6 per game this season. However, the Bears’ defense did not have the same success against the Spartans’ graduate student Colin Kahl, who scored 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

With two losses this weekend, the Bears fell to 4–5 in UAA play, tied for fourth place in the conference with Carnegie Mellon and Brandeis University, and three games back from No. 11 New York University in first. In addition, the Bears, who entered the weekend ranked No. 17 in the nation, fell out of the national top 25. 

WashU will face conference opponents on the road again next weekend, taking on No. 24 Emory University and the University of Rochester, both of whom the Bears beat at home earlier in the season.

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