Women’s basketball rebounds with two conference wins at home

Anna Schoenfeld | Staff Reporter

After getting pushed out of the top-10 national rankings for the first time all season, the Washington University women’s basketball team responded with a pair of definitive home victories against two conference foes. The Bears crushed New York University 80-48 on Friday, before defeating Brandeis University 70-54 two days later.

In the wake of a surprise upset from No. 23 University of Rochester, the Bears jumped out to a 38-27 advantage at halftime. The Wash. U. defense was staunch in the first half, holding NYU to a lowly 9-30 from the field.

Senior Lily Sarros shoots a free throw in Wash. U.’s game aganist New York University. The Bears beat NYU 80-48.Jordan Chow | Student Life

Senior Lily Sarros shoots a free throw in Wash. U.’s game aganist New York University. The Bears beat NYU 80-48.

“We talk every day about making teams shoot tough twos, and you have to do that with all five people on the same page,” head coach Nancy Fahey said. “I thought we played really good team defense today.”

It did not take long for the Bears to pull away. Two minutes into the third quarter, a jump shot from senior forward Lily Sarros sparked a 16-0 from the Red and Green, during which the team held NYU scoreless for over six minutes. Eight of the 16 points came from Sarros.

“Coming out of halftime, we always know that that halftime score is the least important score,” Sarros said. “You just have to keep pushing it. I think our ball movement got a lot better. We just were a lot more comfortable with our offense, and we were able to get some really easy shots, and that was the key.”

“One thing we’ve talked about is playing relaxed on offense. When we play hard on defense, we can let our offense just come to us, and I think we started to do that in the third quarter,” senior forward Zoe Vernon said. Vernon was all over the court during the run, adding two points, one rebound, an assist and two blocks.

Wash. U. finished off the game with smooth ball movement in a fourth quarter, in which all seven of the team’s baskets came off assists. The Bears tallied a season-high 26 assists in the matchup to NYU’s seven, with 10 of the 14 Bears players who saw action registering an assist. Sophomore Claudia Smith tied a career-high total, with six dimes in the game.

Three players finished in double digits in the contest: Vernon (13), Sarros (13) and sophomore forward Madeline Homoly (12). The Bears’ bench also contributed 38 points.

“They’re running their offense with some precision and knowing where their shots are, and they share the ball so well,” Fahey said. “That sharing of the ball is reflected in that balanced scoring.”

On Sunday, the Bears extended their win streak against Brandeis to 18 games, led on the score sheet by Homoly and junior guard Natalie Orr, who tallied 19 and 18 points, respectively.

After a defensively tight third quarter, the Judges used a 7-0 run to pull within 11, with just under three minutes left in regulation. After a Wash. U. timeout, however, the Bears quickly turned things around and put up eight straight points, including two easy layups from Homoly, to seal the win for their squad.

Sarros came close to securing a double-double, bringing in 10 rebounds and nine points while adding four assists. Sophomore guard Becca Clark-Callender had a game-high five assists.

The Red and Green finished with a field goal percentage higher than 50 percent in both games this weekend, and they maintain the second highest shooting percentage in their division.

The Bears continued their staunch defensive play this season, holding NYU to a 31.5 shooting percentage and Brandeis to a 39 percent mark. Additionally, only one opposing player, Brandeis’ Katie Goncalo, made it to double digits in scoring in either game.

“We had this talk about grit, and finding who we were, and I really think through this week of practice we were able to get back to that and redefine ourselves as a strong defensive team,” Sarros said.

According to Fahey, returning to play in the Field House was just what Wash. U. needed to regain confidence after last weekend’s defeat in Rochester, New York.

“It was a motivated week of practice,” Fahey said. “We’d come off a frustrating loss, and we haven’t played in this gym since Dec. 6, so our kids are really embracing the chance to play in front of their home crowd, on their home court.”

With the two wins this weekend, Wash. U. improved to 14-2 overall this season and 3-2 in UAA play.

The Bears’ next game is a big matchup with another division rival, No. 13 Carnegie Mellon University, on Friday.

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