St. Louis, Mo., Dec. 2, 2016 – The No. 9-ranked Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team advanced to the championship game of the 33rd Annual Lopata Classic with an 84-69 win over the University of California-Santa Cruz Friday at the WU Field House in St. Louis.
WashU improved to 5-0 with the win, while Santa Cruz fell to 2-5. WashU has won 10-straight games dating back to last year, the second longest winning streak in all of college basketball (Villanova, 12).
The Bears take on No. 21 University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the Lopata Classic championship game Saturday at 8 p.m. UW-Eau Claire defeated Rhodes 120-94 in the opening game. WashU and UW-Eau Claire (5-0) are two of 38 remaining undefeated programs.
WashU and Santa Cruz opened play trading baskets and leads for the first three minutes of action. The Banana Slugs' Corey Cilia hit a three-pointer, which gave Santa Cruz a 6-4 lead with 17:11 left on the first half clock.
Sanders dominated the first half of play with 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the floor, while working his way to the free throw line 10 times. Kucera also added eight points and four assists at the midway point.
The Banana Slugs closed the gap to 10 points, 62-52, on Vinay Narayanam's free throw with 8:54 remaining. WashU followed the free throw with an 18-6 run to regain control.
Sanders' game and season-high total of 23 points, eight rebounds and a school record seven steals led the Bears. Junior Matt Highsmith nearly finished the game perfect from the floor, missing only one of eight shots to total 16 points, while Kucera chipped in 15 points.
Kucera paced the offense while tying a career-best with 10 assists. Junior Jake Knupp added six assists, six rebounds and five points during 18 minutes of action.
WashU shot a season-high 56.9 percent (33-of-58) from the field, and finished the game with a season-high 27 assists. The Bears also outrebounded the Banana Slugs 45-24 and outscored Santa Cruz 40-20 in the paint.
Cilia and Ben Dorfman both scored in double-figures for the Banana Slugs, with 14 and 12 points respectively.
BEAR NOTEBOOK: WashU and UC Santa Cruz met for the first time in school history with the Bears claiming the first victory ... The Bears are off to a 5-0 start for the third-straight season … The Bears have won 35 straight games in the Lopata Classic.