Men’s basketball wins nailbiter, women’s team dominates in opener

| Staff Reporter

While it’s still playoff season for most Washington University fall sports teams, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are just getting started. In this week’s season openers, the Washington University men’s basketball team held on for a slim 60-59 victory at Webster University, while the women’s team coasted to an 83-60 win against Westminster College at the Field House. Here’s an in-depth recap of what transpired in each victory.

Junior Natalie Orr works her way to the basket during the Bears’ opening game on Nov. 15 at the Field House against Westminster College. The Bears won the game 83-60.

Junior Natalie Orr works her way to the basket during the Bears’ opening game on Nov. 15 at the Field House against Westminster College. The Bears won the game 83-60.

Men’s Basketball:

In the second half, the Bears lost their seven-point lead as Webster stormed back to tie the game up 53-53 with 5:02 to play. Junior guard Kevin Kucera buried a three-pointer moments later, and the Bears didn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game, but not without a dramatic finish—and some luck.

The Bears clung to a 60-59 lead on the game’s final possession until senior Clinton Hooks committed a foul with just one second remaining, giving Webster University’s Enrique Tankins two free throws and a chance to win it or to at least force overtime. However, Tankins missed both free throws as the Bears held on for a one-point victory.

Junior forward Matt Highsmith scored a team-high 14 points off the bench, while junior forward Andrew Sanders led the starters with 13 points on just 4-of-13 shooting from the field, along with nine rebounds. Although the Bears only shot 39.7 percent from the field, they out-rebounded Webster 47-29.

It was a surprisingly close finish for a Bears squad that started this season with a close 82-75 exhibition loss against NCAA Division I University of Illinois last month. The team is looking to start off strong, given that Wash. U. missed the playoffs for the first time in five years last season, even though they ended the 2015-2016 season 15-10, with five consecutive victories. With four starters from last season returning, the team—now ranked 20th in the nation—has taken the first step in that direction.

The Red and Green will look to shake off their early-season rust when they face DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., on Saturday.

Women’s Basketball:

The women’s basketball team, meanwhile, had a much easier time in its season opener. Junior guard Natalie Orr scored the first eight points of the game for the Red and Green as the Bears jumped out to a 37-28 lead at halftime. Westminster cut the deficit down to four points once play resumed, but the Bears went on a 13-2 run to stake a commanding 52-37 lead with 3:27 left in the third quarter. The Bears maintained a double-digit lead for the rest of the game as they coasted to a 23-point victory.

The Red and Green shot 45.9 percent from the field and owned a 43-34 rebounding advantage to outpace Westminster. On defense, the Bears showed remnants of last season’s scrappy defense, which forced 20.6 turnovers per game, by forcing 18 turnovers and holding a 24-7 points-off-turnovers advantage.

The No. 9 Bears return two starters, senior forwards Zoe Vernon and Lily Sarros, as well as Orr, from last year’s squad that registered a 23-6 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Sectional Finals before losing to Thomas More College, the team that won the national championship.

While Orr (17 points, three steals) and Vernon (12 points) showcased their experience against Westminster, it was senior forward Jenn Dynis who commanded all the headlines. Dynis, who averaged 5.4 points per game off the bench last season, led the team with 23 points and 11 rebounds, both career highs, to record her first career double-double.

Wash. U. returns to action this weekend with two home games against Hanover College and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Friday and Saturday, respectively, as part of the McWilliams Classic.

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