Men’s team drops first home game of season to Case Western

| Senior Sports Editor

The Washington University men’s basketball team finally lost on a Sunday. After winning 16 consecutive Sunday games since January 2013, the No. 7 Bears suffered a Sunday defeat in their first home loss of the season against Case Western Reserve University, 89-78, after defeating Carnegie Mellon University, 79-59, on Friday.

With the weekend split, the Red and Green are now 15-3 overall and 4-3 in the University Athletic Association, with all defeats this season coming by double digits.

On Sunday, the Bears couldn’t overcome Case Western’s size as the Spartans started four players listed at 6-feet-6-inches or taller. The size advantage, particularly on the perimeter, and communication breakdowns on defense resulted in Case Western getting open looks on the perimeter, and the visitors drilled 15 three-pointers on 30 attempts. Meanwhile, the Bears struggled to find open looks from beyond the arc, shooting just 2 of 12 (16.7 percent).

Senior forward Matt Palucki dribbles in the second half against Case Western Reserve University over the weekend. Palucki scored 16 points in Wash. U.’s first Sunday loss in two years, an 89-78 defeat.

Senior forward Matt Palucki dribbles in the second half against Case Western Reserve University over the weekend. Palucki scored 16 points in Wash. U.’s first Sunday loss in two years, an 89-78 defeat.

“We always try to talk on defense and switch around, but it’s still really difficult because they have the height in the perimeter and they can hit those shots,” freshman forward Matt Highsmith said.

Case Western jumped out of the gate to a 24-14 lead, thanks in part to four three-pointers and 10-of-16 shooting from the field early on.

The Red and Green cut the deficit to 27-23 before the Spartans countered with an 11-0 run to increase their lead to 15 with 6:25 left in the first half. But the Bears responded with a 15-6 run to go into halftime trailing 44-38.

Senior forward Nick Burt combated Case Western’s size and carried Wash. U. in the first half by scoring 20 of his career-high 25 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

After the Bears pulled within two to start the second half, the Spartans varied their offense with efficient shooting around the perimeter and pick and rolls that created easy baskets inside the paint. Offensively, Wash. U. couldn’t keep up as Case Western pulled away to win comfortably and snap a 19-game losing streak against the Bears.

“We lost our defensive focus. I felt like they got a lot of easier looks at the basket, especially in penetration, that we really could have stopped,” Highsmith said. “I think communication on defense is going to be the biggest thing we look at [next week].”

On Friday, the Bears set the tone early against the Tartans by jumping out to a 13-5 lead. Senior point guard David Fatoki then scored 10 straight points for the Bears to extend the lead to 23-13. However, the Tartans slowly inched back into the game and got as close as 31-29 before the Bears went on an 11-3 run to end the half, punctuated by a tip-in from junior forward Mitch Styczysnki to give Wash. U. a 42-32 lead heading into the break.

In the second half, Carnegie whittled the deficit down to 46-39 with 17:19 remaining, but the Tartans couldn’t reduce the deficit any further. In a five-minute stretch, Fatoki grabbed five steals and dished out four assists to fuel a 12-4 run and break the game wide open.

After the Bears established a commanding 73-56 lead with 3:13 to go, Edwards pulled the starters and Wash. U. built the lead up to 20 by the game’s end.

Despite shooting just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from beyond the arc, the Bears used a tenacious defense to ignite their offense. Highlighted by Fatoki’s school-record eight steals, the Red and Green forced 19 turnovers while only committing a season-low four themselves, which led to easy fast-break baskets and a 20-3 advantage in points off turnovers.

Other key contributors included Burt, who scored 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds, and Styczynski, who scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting.

Next weekend, the Bears will look to improve their UAA conference standing—Wash. U. is currently in a three-way tie for third place and kicks off a four-game road trip with rematches against Carnegie Mellon and Case Western.

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