Bears Fall to No. 2 Amherst, 64-55, in National Championship Game
BOX | HIGHLIGHTS | PHOTOS
Bloomington, Ill., March 19, 2011 – The No. 12 Washington University in St. Louis women’s basketball team saw its magical run through the NCAA Tournament come to and end with a 64-55 loss to No. 2 Amherst College in the 2011 NCAA Division III national championship game on Saturday night at the Shirk Center in Bloomington, Ill.
In a physical defensive battle Amherst used an 18-5 run late in the second half to break a 39-39 tie and grab a 13-point lead with just under 3:30 to play. Washington University hit three threes over the final 90 seconds of the game as the Bears attempted a furious comeback, but they were unable to pull any closer than eight points down the stretch.
Washington University (25-6) fell just one game short during its bid to defend the national championship. The Bears were appearing in the national championship game for the ninth time in school history, third season in a row and fourth time over the past five years. Washington University defeated five-straight top-10 opponents during its remarkable run to the national championship game.
“Obviously we are disappointed but it was a great championship game, highly competitive, and I am extremely proud of what this team accomplished this year,” Washington University head women’s basketball coach Nancy Fahey said.
“I think we really had a great season. We seemed to kind of surprise everyone, including ourselves,” Washington University senior point guard Alex Hoover said. “Throughout this tournament I think we really gained confidence in ourselves and it was a great run.”
Amherst (32-1), which was playing in the NCAA championship game for the first time in school history, avenged a pair of losses to Washington University suffered in the national semifinals in each of the last two seasons. Lord Jeffs’ senior Caroline Stedman scored 19 points on Saturday night en route to 2011 NCAA Championship Most Outstanding Player honors.
Washington University senior Kathryn Berger joined Stedman on the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team. Berger recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds against Amherst and averaged 19 points per game at the 2011 Final Four. She concludes her career ranked seventh in school history with 1,143 points and sixth in rebounding with 717. Berger is one of only three players in program history to pass 1,000-career points and 700-career rebounds.
After playing a high scoring back-and-forth game against Illinois Wesleyan University in the national semifinals on Friday night, the national championship contest proved to be anything but in the first half as both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively in an extremely physical defensive contest.
The two teams combined to shoot 5-of-24 to start the game, turning the ball over eight times, as Amherst led just 9-5 nearly 10 minutes into the action. Washington University had field goal droughts of 6:30 and 4:30 minutes in the opening period and trailed by as many as 10 points, 17-7, but went into the half facing only a four-point deficit.
A three-pointer from Lem Atanga McCormick put the Lord Jeffs in front by 10 at the 6:18 mark before Washington University responded with a 7-0 run over the next three minutes to get back into the game. Amherst extended its lead back to nine points, 24-15, but junior Dani Hoover nailed an eight-foot runner in the lane and junior Brianne Monahan drained a three-pointer from the corner to make the score 24-20.
Washington University shot just 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) with eight turnovers in the first half but did a good job getting to the line where it shot 7-of-12 while Amherst did not attempt a free-throw. The Lord Jeffs shot 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from the field, led by Caroline Stedman’s seven points on 3-of-6 shooting.
The Bears scored the first five points of the second half to briefly take a two-point lead but three of Amherst’s first four field goals of the second half were from long distance and the Lord Jeffs were back up by seven, 36-29, when senior Shannon Finucane drained her second three of the half with 11:23 to play.
Monahan scored seven points and hit her second three of the game during a 10-3 Washington University run that tied the score at 39-39, but Amherst scored 10 points over the next two minutes as a part of the 18-5 run that provided the Lord Jeffs with a commanding double-digit lead.
Amherst iced the game with its hot three-point shooting in the second half. The Lord Jeffs were 6-of-10 from long distance over the final 20 minutes of action and finished the game shooting 10-of-22 (45.5 percent) from three-point range. The Bears held a sizable advantage in free-throw attempts, but Washington University left 11 points on the board shooting 15-of-26 from the line.
“I felt like we kept trying to answer and then they would come back with a three,” Fahey said. “We have been on the other end of that during our run and they were able to hit some daggers from three that were tough to rebound from late in the game.”
Dani Hoover finished the game with a team-high 13 points and Monahan matched her career-high with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting. Alex Hoover had nine assists and just one turnover to increase her school-record assist tally to 442. Alex Hoover played in 120 games during her four-year career, making 93-consecutive starts at point guard for the Bears.
Washington University's senior class of Alex Hoover, Berger, Hannah Cusworth, Monika Monson, Jenny Lloyd and Alison Andrews ended their four years at Washington University with a 99-21 overall record, making three trips to the NCAA national championship game and winning the 2010 national championship.
Bear Notebook: Washington University holds the Division III record with 60 NCAA Tournament victories and is 60-19 all-time in NCAA Tournament play … Washington U. is 7-5 this season against opponents ranked in the D3Hoops.com Top-25 poll … Washington University is 5-4 all-time in the NCAA Championship game … Since the 1998 season, Washington University has either won the national title or been knocked out of the tournament by the eventual national champion in 12 of the last 14 years