Bears Erase 12-Point Deficit to Top Amherst in Overtime, 86-75
BOX | HIGHLIGHTS
Bloomington, Ill., March 19, 2010 – The No. 6 Washington University in St. Louis women’s basketball team erased a 12-point deficit with under 10 minutes to play in the second half to defeat No. 1 and previously unbeaten Amherst College in overtime, 86-75, in the 2010 NCAA Division III semifinals on Friday, March 19, at the Shirk Center in Bloomington, Ill.
Graduate student Jaimie McFarlin scored 17 of her 19 points during the second half and overtime and grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds to lead Washington University into its eighth national championship game in school history. Senior Zoë Unruh and junior Kathryn Berger also scored 19 points to help guide the Bears’ triple threat offensively.
Washington University, which is appearing in its NCAA Division III record 21st-consecutive NCAA Tournament and record ninth Final Four, advances to the national championship game for the eighth time in school history. The Bears are now 8-1 all-time in national semifinal tilts and will compete in the NCAA Division III national championship game for the third time over the past four seasons.
Washington University moved into first place in NCAA Division III history with 54 wins, breaking a tie with the University of Scranton; the Red and Green are 54-18 all-time in postseason action. It was also the second year in a row the Bears eliminated Amherst in the national semifinal, as Washington U. picked up a 65-49 victory over the Lord Jeffs last season in Holland, Mich.
The game’s momentum took a permanent turn in favor of the Red and Green as McFarlin intercepted a Shannon Finucane pass a midcourt and drove all the way to the basket for two points as she was fouled by Finucane. McFarlin sunk the ensuing free-throw to pull the Bears within seven points, and the comeback was on.
“We had them a little uncomfortable after that point,” McFarlin said. “The crowd was amazing all night but after that, it was loud. At that seven-minute mark it was to the point that it was now or never, if we were going to make a run, we had to do it then because they were too good offensively to make a run later.”
A 12-foot jumper from sophomore Claire Schaeperkoetter followed by another McFarlin field goal pulled Washington U. within five, its smallest deficit since the 3:45 mark of the first half. Unruh’s first three of the game came with 6:41 to play and pulled her team within one point, and the comeback was completed when Unruh’s second three 1:42 later knotted the score at 58-58.
A pair of Berger free-throws gave Washington University its first lead of the game after nearly 37 minutes of action and after two Amherst free-throws, junior Alex Hoover drove through traffic for a lay-up to put her team back up by two. Amherst once again had an answer, as Lem Atanga McCormick scored her 13th point of the game with less than a minute to play to tie the game at 64-64.
The final minute of regulation featured plenty of drama, but no scoring by either team. In the Bears’ second-to-last possession senior Janice Evans got trapped underneath the basket and attempted to pass the ball out to the three-point line, but it soared past her teammates and was picked up by Stedman.
Stedman attempted to drive all the way to the basket but was fouled by Hoover, sending her to the line with a chance to put her team back in front. Stedman missed the first free-throw, leading to a Nancy Fahey timeout, and after the break, she missed the second, giving Washington University a chance to take the last shot.
The Bears cleared the zone for Hoover to go one-on-one, but her turnaround jumper with seven seconds to play was wide right and McCormick came down with the rebound. However, McCormick fell down with the ball and was whistled for a travel, giving the Red and Green one last chance with four seconds to play.
After another timeout, Hoover passed the ball into McFarlin, but her last-second shot was no good, and the game headed into overtime, where Washington U. continued its tremendous run.
“I think we were confident in our depth because we have so many people that come off the bench and it does not really change our intensity out there,” Unruh said. “Having the extra five minutes was to our advantage and we also had the momentum coming into the overtime, having just erased a big deficit.”
An Unruh three just 14 seconds into the extra period put the Bears back in front, and a McFarlin pushed the lead to five less than a minute later. Hoover and Berger combined to score the next five points, making it 10 unanswered for WUSTL to start overtime, and that run turned into 12-0 following a pair of McFarlin free-throws. The Bears did not lead by fewer than 10 points for the remainder of the game.
The Bears were 4-of-4 from the field during overtime and 13-of-17 from the line. For the game, Washington U. shot 31-of-37 from the stripe, setting a new season-high for made free-throws in a game. The 12-point deficit marks the largest second-half come back by Washington University this season.
Washington U. missed its first five shots form the field and turned the ball over twice over the first 4:30 of the game, allowing Amherst to jump out to a 10-0 lead. Berger ended the scoreless drought with a difficult lay-up at the 15:27 mark to get the Bears on the scoreboard, but Amherst continued to maintain control of the game.
“Amherst played great defense. They came out, it was a physical game, and they played hard. Sarah Leyman was one of the key components for them, and she just demanded the inside in the first half,” Fahey said. “They had 13 offensive boards the first half. She was the workhorse and I felt we needed to change that.”
The Lord Jeffs led by as many as 12 points in the first half, 22-10, before Washington University began to cut into that advantage. Another Berger lay-up, this time with just over six minutes to play in the first half began an 8-0 WUSTL run. A pair of free-throws from McFarlin and a bucket from Evans pulled WU within six, and the deficit was just four when Berger made her third basket of the half.
However, Amherst ended the first on a 6-0 run over the final 3:21, and led by 10 points at the half. The Lord Jeffs controlled the boards and second-chance scoring in the first period. Amherst held a 29-15 edge in rebounding, and grabbed 13 offensive boards compared to just six for the Red and Green.
Washington U. shot 20.7 percent (6-of-29) from the field and was 0-of-5 from three-point range. Amherst also struggled from three, making just one of its 12 long-range attempts, but the Lord Jeffs were 10-of-21 from inside the arc. Leyman led all scorers with 10 points, while Berger paced Washington U. with eight.
Washington U. (28-2) will face either No. 4 Hope College or the University of Rochester in the 2010 NCAA Division III national championship game on Saturday, March 20, at the Shirk Center in Bloomington, Ill., at 2 p.m.
Bear Notebook: McFarlin has now appeared in 127 career contests and is now one game shy of tying Kean University’s Melissa Beyruti for the most games played in NCAA Division III history … With 14 rebounds on Friday night, McFarlin needs just two more to reach 1,000 for career … Hoover moved into a tie with Debby Braun (1983-86) for seventh-place in school history with 300 assists … The Bears have now held 28-of-30 opponents to no better than 40 percent shooting … Unruh is 40-of-82 (48.8 percent) from three-point range since Jan. 31.