Bears snap losing streak with two wins to start opening homestand

| Sports Reporter

The 27th annual Lopata Classic featured the classic matchup of the 21st century—USA vs. China.

The Washington University men’s basketball team (3-3) defeated Tsinghua University, from Beijing, China, 80-70 on Friday in an exhibition game and then defeated Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges 66-57 on Saturday.

The Bears took an early lead against CMS in the first half.

“We came out really focused, which was really good because we haven’t done that up to this point [this season],” senior co-captain Caleb Knepper said.

Junior Dylan Richter, a co-captain, scored first with a layup, followed by another bucket from senior and fellow captain Spencer Gay.

Knepper increased the lead to 27-16 with two three-pointers at the 6:15 and 4:30 marks.

“Caleb Knepper, coming off the bench, had a great effort,” head coach Mark Edwards said. “It gives us so much versatility in different positions.”

With a minute left in the first half, the Bears scored seven more points on baskets from sophomore Max Needle and freshman Tim Cooney. After a layup from Cooney, the Bears stole the ball back from CMS, and Needle hit a shot from behind the arc. A three-pointer from the Stags brought the score to 36-23 at the half.

The Bears were slow coming out of the break.

“In the second half, we faltered a little bit, gave the ball up a little more than we should have,” head coach Mark Edwards said.

Wash. U. only scored two points in the first six minutes of the half, and CMS soon reduced the Red and Green’s lead to five.

Picking up the intensity, Gay scored a layup, and freshman Alan Aboona made a three-pointer to widen the lead. A basket from Knepper made the score 53-37.

With a minute left and down by nine, the Stags were forced to foul the Bears to try to get the ball back. However, Richter made both his free throws and Cooney made his first, sealing a 66-57 victory.

Gay led the Bears with 19 points with Knepper, sophomore Ben Hoener and Cooney each adding eight points.

The highlight of the weekend was the Bears’ exhibition game against Tsinghua University.

“It was fun, it was one of the neatest events we have had in the Field House,” Edwards said. “The crowd was electric; the fans had fun with both teams.”

The game was tied on three separate occasions, and both teams led at points as well, but the Bears took control in the first half with an 11-0 run to take a 26-16 lead behind three three-pointers, two from Knepper and one from Aboona. The half ended with a three by Knepper, making the score 42-33.

“It was tough because they played a different style, and I think it was tough for them to adjust to our game,” Gay said.

Wash. U. took a 49-35 lead with another three from Knepper while Tsinghua had four turnovers to start the second half. The Bears controlled the game with a double-digit lead the entire half and, leading by as many as 22 points.

Gay led all scorers with 21 points, while Tsinghua’s point guard, Lingxu Zeng, finished the game with 17 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.

“With our system, it was really hard for them to match up to us because they didn’t really know what we wanted to get, and we kept changing it up—switching our style up,” Gay said.

After the CMS game, the all-Lopata team was announced, which included Knepper and Gay. Gay was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“Spencer is the man, he is MVP, and he is our best player,” Knepper said. “We really supported Spencer this weekend whereas last weekend we didn’t as much.”

The Bears continue play on Wednesday against Fontbonne University at 8 p.m.

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