St. Louis, Mo., March 6, 2015 – The No. 8-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's basketball team shot 57.7 percent from the field in the second half as the Bears pulled away for a 75-64 win over Spalding University in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Division III Championship Friday night at the WU Field House.
WashU improved to 24-2 overall with the win, while Spalding finished its season with a 22-5 record. The Bears will face Wittenberg University in the NCAA Second Round at 7 p.m. Saturday at the WU Field House. Wittenberg defeated No. 20 Transylvania University 80-73 in Friday's first game.
After trailing by three at halftime, WashU traded baskets with Spalding through the first four minutes of the second half before senior Alyssa Johanson drained a three from the baseline to tie the game with 15:48 to play. That three by Johanson sparked a 17-3 run by the Bears over the next five minutes, including seven points by senior Melissa Gilkey and five by Johanson, and capped by a three-pointer by freshman Natalie Orr to give the Bears a 54-43 lead with 10:29 remaining.
Gilkey and senior Maddy Scheppers combined to score the next 11 points for WashU and Scheppers' fourth three-pointer of the game gave the Bears their largest lead of the game at 65-49 with 6:14 left. Spalding pulled to within 10 (69-59) with 2:39 remaining before a basket by Scheppers and a pair of free throws by Orr made it a five-possession game in favor of WashU.
"I told the team, Spalding is here for a reason, and it's not just one or two players. They proved that point with how hard they played tonight," head coach Nancy Fahey said. "We settled into our scheme better in the second half and our kids made shots. We did not shoot the ball well in the first half, but I think our defense is what turned things around for us."
Spalding scored the first basket of the game, before WashU answered with eight straight points, including back-to-back baskets by Gilkey to take an 8-2 lead with 17:08 left in the first half. After a layup by the Golden Eagles, Scheppers drained a three from the top of the key to give the Bears their largest lead of the half at 11-4 with 15:59 to play in the half.
The Golden Eagles went on an 11-2 run over the next five minutes to turn the seven-point deficit into a 15-13 lead with 10:35 left in the first half. After two more ties, Maya Hardin hit a three for Spalding to give the Golden Eagles a 22-19 lead. Scheppers grabbed an offensive rebound for the Bears and dribbled out to hit her second three of the game to tie the score again. The Golden Eagles regained the lead on a three by Kayla Styles, before another triple by Scheppers tied the score for the seventh time in the half. The teams continued to trade baskets before a three by Kayla Riggs gave Spalding the 32-29 lead heading into halftime.
WashU shot 45.2 percent (28-62) from the field in the game, including 6-of-15 (40 percent) from three-point range. Spalding finished with 41.1 percent (23-56) field-goal shooting and was 5-of-17 from beyond the arc. The Bears were 13-of-16 at the free-throw line, including 13-of-14 in the second half, while Spalding finished 13-of-17 at the foul line. WashU also finished with a season-low four turnovers in the game.
Gilkey led the Bears with 23 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, while Scheppers added 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. It marked the first time since Jan. 16, 2011, that the Bears had two players top the 20-point mark in the same game. Johanson also finished in double figures with 13 points, including 11 in the second half, to go with her six rebounds. Junior Jordan Thompson dished out eight assists, while equaling her season-high with five rebounds, and senior Steph Vukotic also grabbed five rebounds for the Bears.
Styles led all scorers with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Jessica Guy added 12 points for Spalding.
Bear Notebook: WashU improved to 3-0 all-time against Spalding … The Bears are 21-6 all-time at home in NCAA Tournament play, and 13-0 at home this season … WashU is 3-2 this season when trailing at halftime … It was Gilkey's 90th career double-digit scoring game, and her 23rd of the season … Scheppers scored in double figures for the 44th time in her career and the eighth game in a row … Gilkey brought her season scoring total to 494, moving her past Amy Schweizer, Tasha Rodgers and Sarah Goldman for sixth on the Bears' all-time single-season list … Thompson moved past Carolyn Royce (1989-93) and Shanna-Lei Dacanay (2005-09) for fourth on WashU's all-time career assists leaderboard with 322 … Scheppers passed Kelly Manning for sixth on the Bears' single-season list with 61 made three-pointers … Gilkey increased her season rebounding total to 237, which ranks ninth on the Bears' all-time single-season list … With three blocks, Gilkey moved into a tie with Kelly Manning for seventh on WashU's single-season leaderboard with 43.