Women’s basketball knocks off Augustana College, Trinity University to win McWilliams Classic

| Staff Reporter

Junior Alyssa Johanson drives to the basket in the second half of the Washington University women’s basketball team’s 77-53 victory over Augustana College in the first round of the McWilliams Classic on Friday. Johanson scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds in the Bears’ pair of games over the weekend.

A week after giving up its season high in points and being outrebounded for the first time this year in a road loss to No. 1 DePauw University, the Washington University women’s basketball team returned to its strengths, winning the McWilliams Classic for the seventh consecutive year.

Playing at home for the first time this season, the No. 2 Bears (6-1) relied on their size and defensive prowess to defeat Augustana College 77-53 Friday and No. 24 Trinity University (Texas) 67-59 Saturday.

The game against Trinity was the first single-digit margin for the Red and Green all season as a game that looked to be in the Bears’ firm control swung due to a barrage of Trinity three-pointers. The Tigers hit three straight three-pointers and gained their first lead in 30 minutes with 8:28 left, but a response three-pointer a few minutes later by senior guard Jessy Rosen gave Wash. U. the lead for good.

The Bears outrebounded Trinity 50-30 and turned 21 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points, and Wash. U. needed every one of them in the close game. Junior forward Melissa Gilkey, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player, scored 13 of Wash. U.’s first 17 points but was held to just two the rest of the way. In her stead, three other Bears scored in double figures: sophomore guard Jordan Thompson (a season-high 14), graduate forward Kristin Anda (11) and junior guard Maddy Scheppers (10).

“Our best asset is the fact that we have a really deep bench,” Gilkey said. “To see people like Jessy Rosen come off the bench and hit a three when we need it, that’s just absolutely huge, knowing that we can score from all angles.”

Trinity’s 2-3 zone defense “obviously bothered us initially,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “Zones are basically—what they are, they’re telling you [that] you have to hit a perimeter shot. I thought we moved the ball well, but we tightened up a little bit in that spot…I think Rosen’s three was key. You could feel the gym kind of relax again.”

Defensively, the Bears contained Trinity’s outside shooters for the most part, forcing the Tigers into 24.1-percent shooting on three-pointers. But when the threes came, they came in bunches, as in that second-half run to give Trinity the brief lead. By altering how they defended screens, though, the Red and Green adjusted to limit the Tigers the rest of the way.

“We had to change on on-ball screens. We started jamming and going under, which was key, instead of the hard hedge,” Fahey said. “What was happening was they were getting to our gut and kicking out, and when you stop doing that, they didn’t get their kick-out threes.”

Against Augustana on Friday, the Bears never trailed and led by double digits for the entire second half en route to their fifth victory of 17 or more points this season. Scheppers continued her recovery from offseason shoulder surgery to make four three-pointers and score 15 points, and both Gilkey (17 points, 12 rebounds) and senior forward Jordan Rettig (11 and 11) contributed double-doubles.

The Bears tallied 16 steals in the game, including 12 in the second half, and outscored Augustana 35-10 in points off turnovers. “We just wanted to be a little more aggressive,” Scheppers said. “We had to stop dribble penetration because they were getting a lot of shots in the paint, and we just wanted to maintain our helpside defense.”

“They can’t set up their defense because they were in that 2-3 that was giving us trouble,” Scheppers added. “So when we got in transition, it was easier to do offense.”

Wash. U. has two more games before winter break, playing at Fontbonne University in the Wydown Showdown at 6 p.m. on Tuesday before hosting Loras College at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Sign up for the email edition

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