No. 4 WashU Suffers Heartbreaking Loss in NCAA 1st Round

Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos
Photo by Danny Reise/WUSTL Photos


St. Louis, Mo., March 2, 2018 – The No. 4-ranked Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team had its season come to an end with a heartbreaking 82-80 loss to Aurora University in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Division III Tournament Friday at the WU Field House in St. Louis.

With the Bears down three, sophomore guard Matt Nester hit a three-pointer from the corner with 1.6 seconds left to tie the score. Max Vickers then unleased a 75-foot pass from out of bounds that Marcus Myers corralled and launched a jumper from the wing for the game-winner as time expired.

Aurora won its 10th-straight game to improve to 20-8, while WashU dropped its second-straight contest and ended its season with a 22-4 mark. Aurora takes on Nebraska Wesleyan in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT). The Prairie Wolves defeated Maryville (Tenn.) 94-70 in the first game Friday.

"Aurora played a great game. They came in here with the intent of executing what their game plan was. They did and they deserved to win," said WashU head coach Mark Edwards. "It was a game shot of big shots and they made more big shots than we did."

Senior forward Andrew Sanders had 21 points, eight rebounds and a season-high four steals, while freshman guard Jack Nolan added 18 points off the bench. Sophomore guard Matt Nester had a career-high 15 points on 5-of-9 threes, while senior center David Schmelter chipped in with 14 points and seven rebounds.

WashU's senior class of Matt Highsmith, Jake Knupp, Kevin Kucera, Sanders, Schmelter, and Sasha Sobolev) helped guide the Bears to a 78-26 (.750) overall record in four seasons, with three NCAA Tournament appearances and two University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships.

WashU started the game on an 8-0 run, and the Bears extended their lead to 12-4 on a bucket by Sanders with 14:59 left. The lead grew to double figures (18-8) with 12:49 left on a jumper by Nolan.

Aurora got back into the game on the back of Matt Dunn, who finished the first half with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting. The Spartans went on a 12-0 run to take their first lead at 20-18 and force a WashU timeout.

Nester came off the bench and nailed three-straight triples to get the lead back at 27-25. He finished the half with 12 points in 10 minutes of play.

WashU took a 43-39 lead to the locker room as Sanders had 13 points and six rebounds. The Bears shot 47.4 percent (18-38) from the field and had a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points. WashU had 12 assists and just three turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Aurora gained the 55-51 advantage on a jumper by Ty Carlson, but Nolan highlighted a 10-0 run with a pair of threes to make it 61-55. Nolan hit another three to give WashU the three-point advantage, and then nailed a jumper to give WashU a 74-69 lead with 2:47 to play.

The Spartans answered with eight straight to take a three-point lead, but Nolan came through again with a three with 49 seconds left to tie the score. 

Dunn led Aurora with 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Myers had 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Carlson added 18 points as Aurora shot 55 percent from the field and hit 11-of-22 from three-point range. 

• WashU is 33-19 in 21 NCAA Tournament appearances
• Sanders moved past Matt Palucki (2011-15) into 13th on WashU all-time scoring list (1,254)
• The score was tied nine times and there were 11 lead changes
• WashU attempted 34 threes, three shy of the school record
• The Bears set the single-season school record for scoring offense (86.4) and threes made per game (8.2)