Women’s basketball sweeps conference weekend, extends win streak to five
Successful sports teams all have one thing in common: they win the games that they need to win. While there is no such thing as a “gimme game,” the Washington University women’s basketball team was poised to capitalize on a break within their challenging conference schedule, playing two consecutive weekend series against two of the bottom three teams in the University Athletic Association (UAA) — Carnegie Mellon University and Case Western Reserve University. Still, it never comes easy.
With just seconds to spare in a tie game during the fourth quarter against Carnegie Mellon, the Bears stood in a huddle, listening as coach Randi Henderson drew up the play for the Bears’ final possession. After the huddle, senior guard Jessica Brooks asked a simple – but crucial – question.
“Do you want to win this game?”
The team resoundingly answered yes. Brooks responded – again simply – “Let’s do it.”
The Bears did it. With just seven seconds remaining, first-year center Lexy Harris hit the crucial shot — a contested layup to give the Bears a 71-69 win.
Two days later, the Bears completed their sweep, taking down Case Western with a 84-74 victory on Feb. 4. With the wins, the Bears improve to 13–7, setting up a crucial end-of-season stretch against their toughest UAA rivals to decide the season’s fate.
WashU v. Carnegie Mellon
The Bears opened their weekend series at Carnegie Mellon. The weekend prior, WashU defeated the Tartans 90–81, in a close game where first-year center Lexy Harris led the offensive charge with 32 points.
WashU got off to a slow start, getting out-scored by the Tartans in the first three quarters. The Bears particularly struggled in the second quarter, shooting less than 30% from the field and just 20% from beyond the arc. After allowing 11 points off of turnovers in the third quarter and entering the fourth with a 15-point deficit, it seemed like the Bears’ three-game win streak was in serious jeopardy.
Brooks took matters into her own hands. The guard went on a 13-point rampage in the fourth quarter, almost single-handedly erasing the WashU deficit. With 2:21 remaining, Brooks cashed in her final bucket of the game, giving the Bears the lead. A Brooks turnover in the final minute, however, set up a game-tying three-pointer for Carnegie Mellon, knotting the game at 69 with just 37 seconds to go. After the Bears successfully played the clock out to just seven seconds remaining, a dramatic Harris layup put WashU ahead. The Tartans’ attempt for a buzzer-beater failed and WashU escaped with a 71–69 victory.
“We all went in with the mindset that it’s not over until that final buzzer sounds,” Brooks said after the game.
Brooks and Harris provided most of the Bears’ offense. Over half of Brooks’ 23 points were scored in the fourth quarter, a number which rivaled her top point performances of the year. Harris led WashU in scoring with 26 points.
WashU v. Case Western
Following a close victory against Carnegie Mellon on Friday, the Bears continued their mini road trip, playing Case Western on Feb. 4. Unlike Friday’s game, the Bears were dominant from the start. Brooks led the way, erupting for 32 points in 29 minutes and shooting 11–17 from the field.
The game started quickly for the Bears, as they scored within the first six seconds and wouldn’t relinquish this lead for the rest of the game. A pair of threes and a 7–0 run allowed the Bears to add to their lead and possess a comfortable 17–5 advantage.
The Spartans would not let this game get away so early, and they went on a mini run to trim the lead down to 19–13. WashU then had a run of their own to close the first quarter, culminating in a 24–13 lead after a quarter of play.
Similar to the first quarter, the second quarter saw the Spartans fight back as the Bears’ 11-point lead was trimmed down to three. But again, the Bears mustered a run, outscoring their hosts 16–3 to take a commanding 46–30 lead. This massive run was a team effort, as Brooks contributed six points, first-year Amelia Rosin chipped in four points, and the duo of first-year Catherine Goodwin and sophomore Jordan Rich contributed three points each. This run allowed the Bears to enter halftime up 46–31.
“A lot of our rookies hit really big shots this weekend,” said Brooks, who saw the first-years’ star especially shine in the game against Case Western. “It was really awesome to see our first-years step up.”
Runs continued to be the theme in the third quarter, as the Spartans scored 11 points straight to cut the Bears’ lead down to 53–48. The Bears then rallied, going on a 6–0 run to close out the third quarter with a 58–48 lead.
The start of the final period saw a lot of back-and-forth scoring from both teams before Case Western went on a 5–0 run, their final opportunity to come within striking distance of the Bears. The run closed the gap to seven points, but then it was time for the Brooks show, with the senior scoring nine straight points to put the game away for WashU. The Bears won 84–74.
Besides dominating the scoreboard, the Bears dominated in other major categories. The Bears won the battle in the paint, outrebounding the Spartans 40–27 and outscoring them 38–22 in the paint. The Bears’ bench, led by 13 points from first-year Alyssa Hughes, outscored the Spartans’ bench 28–16.
The Bears, riding their five game win streak, will continue UAA play as they travel to play No. 12 Emory University on Feb. 9, with whom they are tied for third in the conference at 6–3, before playing the University of Rochester on Feb. 11. The second away weekend in a row will be a major litmus test for the team.
“To focus on this win streak is exciting, but it’s not our goal,” Brooks said. “We just want to win every game we can, get better every day as a team, and play for each other.”