Waltham, Mass., Feb. 19, 2017 – The No. 7-ranked Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team won the 2016-17 University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship and secured the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with a 95-91 win at Brandeis University Sunday in Waltham, Mass.
The UAA Championship for WashU is its first since 2014 and 14th in school history, while the Bears will make their 20th NCAA Division III Tournament appearance.
WashU closes out regular-season play by hosting the University of Chicago on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 3 p.m. The Bears will honor their three seniors prior to the game – Michael Bregman, CJ Harrington and Clinton Hooks.
WashU improved to 20-4, 12-1 in the UAA, while Brandeis fell to 7-16, 3-10 in the UAA. The win gave head coach Mark Edwards his 17th 20-win season in 36 years, including the ninth in the last 11 years.
WashU started slow missing its first four shot attempts, but connected on its next eight to take a 16-9 lead with less than 14 minutes remaining. Junior Kevin Kucera buried the first three of the game for WashU to get advantage up to 19-11.
The lead grew to double figures (23-13) after a bucket by Hooks, and then Kucera nailed his second triple from the wing to extend the WashU advantage to 34-22.
Brandeis kept it close by connecting on 10-of-17 threes in the first half. Jack Fay hit all five of his three-point shots in the first half, the last one with 33 seconds left to make it 44-44. Junior Matt Highsmith scored on a put back to give WashU a 46-44 lead at half.
Highsmith had 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Kucera added eight points and five assists. Brandeis scored 15 points off six WashU turnovers in the first half.
WashU had a 57-49 lead but the Judges responded with a 9-0 run to take its first lead of the second half. Highsmith scored on a lay-up and then senior Clinton Hooks nailed the 100th three-pointer of his career off a fast break to make it 64-61 and force a Brandeis timeout.
Junior David Schmelter, who was held scoreless in the first half, took over the game late in the contest. Schmelter scored seven points in a four-minute span, including hitting 5-of-7 free-throws.
WashU got a defense stop with less than two minutes left leading by three, and then Kucera nailed a three from the top of the key with 1:21 left to push the lead to six (91-85). The three for Kucera was his third of the game.
Highsmith scored a career-high 19 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while junior Andrew Sanders added 17 points and four steals. Kucera had 15 points and eight assists, while Schmelter added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Knupp filled up the stat sheet with eight points, a career-high seven assists, six rebounds and three steals off the bench.
WashU shot 54.4 percent (37-68) from the field, and had 25 assists and just seven turnovers. The Bears also outrebounded the Judges 33-26, with 16 offensive boards.
Jordan Cooper (25 points), Fay (23 points) and Robinson Vilmont (21 points) scored in double figures for Brandeis, who shot 60.4 percent (32-53) from the field and hit 17 three-pointers. The 17 threes are the second most in UAA history in a game. Brandeis has hampered by 19 turnovers.
BEAR NOTEBOOK: WashU leads the all-time series with Brandeis, 46-12, and the Bears swept the season series … Sanders has scored in double figures in 22 of 24 games played … The Judges have lost nine of their last 10 games … The Bears are 12-1 away from home this season, and its 11 wins on its opponents' home floor this season are second most in NCAA Division III.