Jacksonville, Ill., Nov. 30, 2014 – A strong second-half performance by the No. 8-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's basketball team allowed the Bears to pull away from No. 22 Illinois Wesleyan University for an 82-59 win in the championship game of the Midwest Challenge Sunday evening.
After trailing 38-34 at halftime, seniors Alyssa Johanson and Melissa Gilkey scored the first eight points of the second half for Washington U. to give the Bears a 42-40 lead. Illinois Wesleyan answered with back-to-back baskets to regain a 44-42 edge with 15:15 remaining in the game. Gilkey took over with eight points in the next 2:22 as Washington U. went on an 11-2 run to turn the two-point deficit into a 53-46 lead. The Titans cut the lead to 56-53 with 8:51 to play, but a jumper by Johanson sparked a 16-2 run for the Bears to put the game out of reach. The Bears held Illinois Wesleyan without a field goal for more than five minutes during the decisive run that included a pair of threes by senior Maddy Scheppers, six points by Johanson and four by Gilkey. The Titans were unable to get closer than 15 in the final three minutes as Washington U. finished with the 23-point win.
Scheppers scored the first 11 points of the game for Washington U. behind 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range as the Bears built an early 11-3 lead. A basket by Johanson gave Washington U. its largest lead of the first half at 20-9 with 13:24 left. The Titans chipped away at the lead, but a basket by senior Steph Vukotic and a pullup jumper by Johanson gave the Bears a 32-22 lead with 4:56 left in the half. The Titans' defensive pressure began to get to the Bears late in the half, and Illinois Wesleyan finished the period with a 16-2 run, including a 13-0 run over the final 2:50, to take a 38-34 lead into halftime.
Washington U. shot a season-best 54.4 percent (31-of-57) from the field in the game, including 6-of-13 from three-point range. After shooting 56 percent in the first half, Illinois Wesleyan was limited to 39.3 percent (22-of-56) from the field for the game. The Titans finished 6-of-23 from three-point range in the game, including just 1-of-12 (8.3 percent) in the second half.
Washington U. edged Illinois Wesleyan 38-31 on the boards, and forced 21 turnovers by the Titans. The Bears finished with a 25-20 advantage in points off turnovers, including 14-0 in the second half.
After being limited to three points and sitting most of the first half with two fouls, Gilkey exploded in the second half to finish with a season-high 24 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Scheppers had season-highs in every statistical category, finishing with 19 points, including five three-pointers, five rebounds, six assists, one block and four steals. Johanson added a season-best 18 points and three steals. Junior Amanda Martinez totaled seven points and six rebounds off the bench for the Bears, while junior Katybeth Biewen dished out a season-high six assists and grabbed four steals to go with her two points.
Washington U. improved to 5-0 for the first time since the 2005-06 season with the win, while Illinois Wesleyan dropped to 4-2. The Bears return home to host Loras College at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the WU Field House.
Bear Notebook: Washington U. leads the all-time series against Illinois Wesleyan 29-5 … The Bears committed a season-high 17 turnovers, but had just three in the second half … Washington U. has won all five of their games this season by a margin of at least 23 points … It was Gilkey's third double-double of the season and the 22nd of her career, while also being her 17th career game scoring 20-plus points … With five three-pointers, Scheppers now has 90 in her career, which is four shy of passing Lucy Montgomery (2010-13) for 10th on Washington U.'s all-time list … Scheppers' 19 points also brought her career total to 700.