Your 2012 Washington University men’s basketball postseason primer

| Sports Editor

Dylan Richter, No. 20, senior guard/forward

The University Athletic Association Player of the Year and Wash. U.’s leading scorer at 16.4 points-per-game, Richter is the unquestioned star of this team. Deadly coming off screens for three-pointers, Richter has turned in his best performances this season in what were arguably the Red and Green’s three biggest wins. Against Augustana (ranked No. 1 at the time), Wheaton (No. 17) and Emory (No. 4), Richter averaged 28.3 points on 60.4 percent shooting and 61.3 percent three-point shooting. He also scored 17 points in a road win over New York University to clinch the conference title. Richter tends to fall in love with the three—more than half of his regular season field goal attempts came from downtown despite 35.1 percent accuracy, compared to 55.3 percent on two-pointers—but when he’s feeling it, there’s no reason for him to stop firing away.

Chris Klimek, No. 33, sophomore forward

The Bears’ perimeter shooting can be streaky, so Klimek’s interior scoring is a huge boost to the offense. The All-UAA second-teamer shot 54.6 percent on the season, tops among Wash. U. starters, and trailed only Richter with 13.1 points-per-game. Klimek has scored in double figures in 13 of the last 14 contests.

Alex Toth, No. 45, senior center

The Red and Green doesn’t look to Toth for scoring like it does for Richter and Klimek, but the burly center’s best games always provide a spark for the team. His hustle and WWE mentality, as head coach Mark Edwards referred to it earlier in the year, can get him into foul trouble, but they also set the tone for the Bears’ aggressive play on both ends of the floor.

Other key players

The Bears are excellent at moving the ball on offense, and sophomore guard Alan Aboona is the primary facilitator. Since Edwards inserted him into the starting lineup Dec. 30, Aboona has averaged a team-leading 4.5 assists-per-game. Sophomore guard Tim Cooney, the Bears’ other starting guard and an All-UAA honorable mention, is a defensive specialist who brings the same gung-ho mentality as Toth to every possession. The Red and Green will also rely on contributions from junior guard Ben Hoener, freshman guard Brayden Teuscher, freshman forward Matt Palucki and junior center Rob Burnett off the bench.

This weekend

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., No. 19 Wash. U. hosts Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion Buena Vista University, which enters the game with a 17-10 record. The 19-6 Bears’ rebounding supremacy could be challenged by Buena Vista, which boasts a pair of 6’7” forward/centers, Wes Nordquist and Doug Bissen. Nordquist and Bissen combined for 27.0 points-per-game and 15.4 rebounds-per-game in the regular season. The Bears will be counting on Toth, Klimek, Palucki and Burnett to maintain the Red and Green’s edge inside.

If the Bears defeat Buena Vista, they will play either No. 23 North Central College (20-7) or Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (20-8) on Saturday at 7 p.m. North Central and Rose-Hulman are set to square off Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the Washington University Field House.

Keys to Success

1. Keep up strengths
Standout individual contributors have varied game-by-game for the Bears. But as a team, their sustained strengths have been defense and rebounding. The Bears have held opponents to 43.3 percent shooting and won the battle of the boards in 20 of the last 25 contests. Toth and Klimek have led the way in the rebounding department, pulling down 10.2 combined per game. Jumping out to fast starts has also been crucial for the Bears, this season and in the past. They have won 84 of their last 90 games when leading at halftime.

2. Establish consistency on perimeter shooting
The Bears get plenty of open looks thanks to their screen-happy offense, but they are shooting three-pointers at a pedestrian 34.1 percent rate. Free-throw shooting has also been spotty, at 68.1 percent.

3. Prove that upsets were not fool’s gold
Two of Wash. U.’s most momentous victories came against Augustana and Emory, which were ranked No. 1 and No. 4, respectively, at the times they fell to the Bears. But neither school qualified for the postseason tournament, taking some of the luster off of those victories. If the Bears win their first three games of the tournament, they could face another top-five team, No. 1 Hope College, in the quarterfinals.

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