Women’s basketball clinches conference championship

| Staff Reporters

Stephen Huber | Student Life

Senior forward Jordan Rettig drives in for a layup over an Emory defender on Feb. 2. Over the weekend, Rettig scored 18 total points in a pair of victories over Case Western Reserve University and Carnegie Mellon University to help the Bears win 80-67 and 76-57, respectively.

The weekend was more sweet than bitter for the No. 5 Washington University women’s basketball team as the emotions of Senior Day did nothing to stop the team from winning two more games and clinching the University Athletic Association title.

On Friday evening, the Bears beat Case Western Reserve University 80-67 and later found out that the University of Chicago, the Bears’ UAA rival and the second-place team in the conference, had lost to Carnegie Mellon University, giving the Red and Green the conference title and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

It is the program’s 20th conference championship overall but first since 2009-10, meaning the seniors honored before Sunday’s game could celebrate their first UAA title.

Sunday’s game, which doubled as Senior Day and the team’s last regular-season home contest, saw the Bears cruise to a 76-57 victory over Carnegie. With their fifth straight win, the Bears moved to 22-2 overall with a 12-1 record in the UAA.

The Bears dominated the first half against Case Western on Friday, shooting 53.1 percent from the field and holding onto a 47-31 lead heading into the break. The team struggled with its shooting in the second half, shooting only 32.3 percent from the field and making no three-pointers, and Case Western was able to stay in the game.

Fortunately for the Bears, junior forward Melissa Gilkey carried the team in the second half, pouring in 17 of her team-high 24 points, which matched Case Western high-scorer Julie Mooney’s 17 second-half points.

Wash. U.’s depth allowed it to rest their starters throughout the game, and scorers such as junior guard Alyssa Johanson (18 points) came off the bench to help maintain the team’s first-half lead even as the Bears’ shots were not falling quite as easily later in the game. In all, Wash. U.’s bench played almost twice as many minutes as the Case Western bench and outscored its counterpart by a 32-3 margin.

Before Sunday’s game, the team honored graduate student forward Kristin Anda and five other seniors: forward Jordan Rettig, guards Lucy Montgomery and Jessy Rosen, and two team managers. Over the past four seasons, the Bears have had a 90-20 record (a .818 win percentage), with a 43-12 (.782) mark in the UAA. The team has also competed in the NCAA tournament all four of those years, finishing as the national runner-up in 2011.

“They compete as seniors,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “They’ve set the bar high for any other student leadership group that comes after them.”

It was an emotional occasion as players were escorted by their parents and received hearty applause from fans in attendance, and many of those honored were able to reflect on their past experiences as Bears.

“I wasn’t expecting to cry, but it kind of hits you,” Montgomery said.

“We were able to walk into the gym and look at all the signs that the underclassmen made, that they stayed all night to decorate for us,” Rosen said. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s been a really lovely four years.

Even though it was not exactly her Senior Day, the ceremony still honored Anda’s contributions to the team for a second time, and she made a big impact in the game itself. Anda scored 13 points to go along with five rebounds and three steals, making her presence felt on both offense and defense for the Bears.

“It felt great to sit back and enjoy the moment,” Anda said, “I had one more chance to enjoy it and be with all these great girls and this great coaching staff.”

Anda’s first-half contributions, which included a putback layup at the halftime buzzer as well as helping the Bears a 21-13 rebounding edge, pushed the Bears to a 10-point lead at the half. It wasn’t until the second half that the team began to pull away, holding Carnegie Mellon to just 25 percent shooting.

The large lead allowed Fahey to pull her seniors out of the game with less than two minutes remaining as many fans stood to cheer them on for perhaps the final time.

“The best part about having that big lead is having the underclassmen come in for you and seeing the direction that the team is going in once we leave,” Rosen said. “That’s what gives me chills, seeing them on the court and watching them play.”

“Everyone wants to win on their Senior Day,” Rettig said. “It’s a great feeling, icing on the cake.”

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.