Holland, Mich., March 4, 2017 – The No. 9-ranked Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team battled NCAA Division III Second Round host and No. 18 Hope College in front of nearly 2,500 fans but was unable to overcome 16 Flying Dutchmen three-pointers in a 94-80 loss Saturday evening.
WashU concluded its season with a 21-6 record as Hope improved to 23-6 on the year. Hope will play Hanover College on March 10 with the site yet to be determined.
"Championship basketball is won by the three-pointer," said WashU head coach Mark Edwards. "I think that Hope has a legitimate chance to win the NCAA Title. They played a tremendous game. I am also very impressed with my guys as they played hard from the opening tip until the very end."
Junior Kevin Kucera led the Bears with 25 points, including five shots from beyond the arc to tie a career-high. Also scoring in double-figures for the Bears were juniors David Schmelter (17), Andrew Sanders (13) and senior Clinton Hooks (13). Hooks and Schmelter tied for the team lead in rebounds with nine.
Hope finished the game shooting 50 percent from the field (29-58) and 55.2 percent from three (16-29) while WashU was held to 40 percent from the field (28-70). The Bears outrebounded Hope 44-36 including 13 offensive boards that led to 17 second chance points.
WashU scored the initial basket of the game after winning the opening tip. Schmelter won the jump-ball and hit a jumper from the free throw line to put WashU ahead 2-0 but Hope quickly responded with a three ball seconds later by Dante Hawkins.
Hope hit six three-pointers in the opening nine minutes of play to take a double-digit lead, 22-11. Kucera hit a triple to pull the Bears within single digits, 34-25 with six minutes left in the half. However, Hope's Harrison Blackedge converted a three-point play and the Flying Dutchmen led by double figures the rest of the way.
The Flying Dutchmen shot 52.9 percent from beyond the arc in the opening half (9-17) as Hawkins and Cody Stuive shot a combined 8-of-9 from long range. Hope led 52-37 at the half while Kucera was the Bears leading scorer with 16 points. Sanders also reached double-figures for the Bears in the first half with 11 points.
"We took a similar approach to last night's game like Clinton (Hooks) said yesterday, 'Take it one possession at a time,'" said Kucera. "We wanted to reevaluate where we were in the second half after four minutes. We pulled within 10 or 12 but Hope kept making big shots."
Schmelter scored the Bears' first basket of the second half and totaled nine points in the first five minutes including three dunks. His final slam came at the 15:21 mark as WashU pulled within 12, 60-48.
Moments later the Bears worked the deficit to 10 as junior Jake Knupp hit 2-of-3 from the free throw line. WashU forced a Hope turnover on the following possession but a missed shot triggered a Flying Dutchmen run that grew their lead to 18 with 8:05 left to play.
WashU refused to concede defeat as it made an 11-3 run with less than three minutes left culuminated by a three-ball from Hooks. The run brought WashU within 90-80 but with 50 seconds remaining the Bears were forced to foul. Hope sank four free throws while WashU was unable to find the net in the remaining time, falling 94-80.
Stuive had 37 points to lead Hope, while Hawkins added 26. Blackedge finished the night 15 points.
SENIOR CLASS: The senior class (Michael Bregman, CJ Harrington, Clinton Hooks) helped guide the Bears to an 80-25 (.762) overall record with three NCAA Tournament appearances and the 2014 and 2017 UAA Championships.
BEAR NOTEBOOK: WashU fell to Hope for the first time in school history but holds a 2-1 series advantage with all three meetings coming in the NCAA Tournament… The Bears are 33-18 (.647) in 20 NCAA appearances… Sanders finished the season having scored in 25 of 27 games… Of the Bears six losses on the year, five of them came on Saturday.