Bears nab 2 close victories to clinch winning season

| Sports Reporter

Junior Dylan Richter goes up for a layup against New York University on Friday night. Richter scored 20 points in the win.

Junior Dylan Richter goes up for a layup against New York University on Friday night. Richter scored 20 points in the win.

The Washington University men’s basketball team guaranteed its 27th consecutive winning season this weekend with a 67-61 victory over New York University on Friday and a 77-75 nail-biting win over Brandeis University on Sunday.

The Judges’ tough, quick interior defense forced the Bears to rely on their perimeter game for consistent offense. Senior Caleb Knepper rose to the challenge and exploded for 28 points, including 17 in the first half. Knepper hit seven of his first nine three-point attempts and finished the game 8-of-12 from beyond the arc. Junior Dylan Richter also scored 21 points.

“I’m ecstatic right now,” Richter said. “We knew coming into this game we needed to win one of the next two to have a winning season. We’ve lost a lot of close games, but we really wanted to get that win to solidify that, so it was a big relief.”

While the Bears struggled to win close games early in the season, head coach Mark Edwards explained that this game represented a significant reflection on the season and a major step in the team’s development.

“We played hard, we played with a lot of heart, we made some mistakes along the way, but we never quit believing, and we never quit playing together,” Edwards said.

On Friday, the Bears came back from an 11-point deficit during the second half to defeat the Violets. Richter led the surge with 20 points and 16 rebounds, recording his first career double-double. Senior Spencer Gay contributed 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“We’ve got enough talented players that on any given night, we have someone, if we need it, to play big,” Richter said. “We are all just trying to get some wins.”

Gay sat out for a combined three minutes over both games. Gay, who has scored in double figures in 22 of the team’s 24 games this season and leads the team with 16.4 points per game, has embraced his role as the workhorse of the team.

“I don’t really get tired. It’s fun being out there,” Gay said. “I spent my first few years sitting on the bench, so whenever I want to sit on the bench, I just remember what it’s like. I like to be on the floor.”

Though they won both games, the Bears struggled from the free-throw line, shooting only 55.1 percent from the stripe this weekend. The team understands that free throws provide the easiest way to close out games.

“Free throws are something we’ve harped on a lot this year,” Richter said. “It’s really an easy thing. It’s all mental. We’re all going to come in these next two days we have off and practice [free throws].”

The Bears will prepare to cap off the regular season at home at 3 p.m. Saturday against the University of Chicago. This will be the final game for seniors Gay, Knepper, Isaiah Honick and Brett Sapp.

“These kids are a joy to coach,” Edwards said. “They understand the nature of competition, and that’s why they’re playing basketball.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening as Washington University returns to campus.