Stifling Defense Drives No. 18 Bears to 62-37 Win over RHIT

Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos
Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Terre Haute, Ind., Nov. 24, 2018 – The No. 18-ranked Washington University in St. Louis women's basketball team stifled the offense of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology to claim a 62-37 victory in the opening game of the Midwest Challenge Saturday afternoon.

WashU improved to 2-1 on the season while the Fightin' Engineers fell to 1-3 on the year. The Bears defense held RHIT to 23.3-percent shooting from the field (10-43) and forced 25 turnovers.

Junior center Kristina Schmelter finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, both game-high figures, while shooting 5-of-9 from the field and a perfect 4-of-4 from the free-throw line. Senior guard Becca Clark-Callender dished out six assists compared to just one turnover committed in the opening minutes of the first quarter.

Following nearly five minutes of scoreless action, RHIT opened the scoring on 1-of-2 free-throws made in the first quarter. The Fightin' Engineers scored the first five points of the game but a jumper from freshman forward Samantha Weaver helped WashU find its scoring touch. Sophomore forward Grace Fortmann hit a shot from behind the arc on the dish by Weaver to give the Bears their first lead, 7-5. In the closing seconds of the quarter, senior guard Katie Claussner hit a mid-range jumper to help WashU maintain a two-point lead, 9-7.

Schmelter scored the first eight points of the second quarter for WashU helping the Bears ahead 17-11 with 5:23 remaining in the half. Two of her jumpers from the wing were assisted by Clark-Callender and one by senior guard Rachael Sondag.

Senior forward Stephanie Botkin scored her first of 12 overall points in the second quarter converting two free-throws to push the Bears lead to double figures, 21-11. Schmelter sank all four of her free-throws down the stretch of the first half but RHIT pulled the deficit under 10. The Fightin' Engineer's Debie Gedeon converted a three-point play for the final score of the half, 27-18.

RHIT scored on its opening possession to cut the Bears lead to seven until senior guard Caroline Ballard drained a three. The Fightin' Engineers cut the lead back to single digits one final time before Botkin hit a triple to put WashU ahead 33-22. Botkin's triple sparked a 15-0 run by the Bears and WashU never looked back.

In the final second of the third, Clark-Callender had a tremendous steal before immediately hoisting the ball up for a banked in buzzer-beater three to end the third quarter with WashU leading 48-26.

Fortmann hit a three-pointer with 4:25 left in the game for the Bears largest lead, 58-30. Sophomores Bella Moreno and Mary Bryggman scored the final two baskets for the Red & Green, who closed out the game 62-37.

Ballard had a well-rounded game totaling eight points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists. She set or matched career-bests in both steals and assists. Weaver finished with a season-best four steals.

WashU advanced onto the Midwest Challenge Championship game for the sixth consecutive season. The Bears will play No. 12 Illinois Wesleyan on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. (ET) in Terre Haute, Ind. The Titans defeated No. 13 DePauw and will matchup with WashU for the 10th time in the championship game of the 26 Midwest Challenge tournaments. WashU holds a 6-3 edge in the championship games versus Illinois Wesleyan. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.