Freshman guard Regan Mohler scored a career-high 19 points off the bench in the second half to fuel a furious comeback by the Spartans' reserves, and freshman guard Nick Aloi made his first career start and scored a career-high 17 points, but a large second-half deficit proved to be too much for Case Western Reserve University to overcome in a 102-97 loss at sixth-ranked Washington University (Mo.) on Sunday afternoon.
Mohler scored all of his 19 points over the final 6:22 of the game, as the Spartans cut a 25-point deficit with 7:11 remaining to just five points with 26 seconds remaining. Mohler shot five-for-seven overall in the game, including a four-for-six mark from beyond the three-point line, after never having scored more than five points in a game this season.
Aloi shot six-of-11 from the floor and converted three of four three point attempts on Sunday, scoring in double figures for the first time in his career. Junior guard Colin Zucker recorded his second-straight 20-point effort and fourth overall this season, shooting eight-of-16 from the floor and four-of-nine from long range to lead all scorers in Sunday's game with 20 points. Junior forward T.J. Duckett added 14 points and eight rebounds on a five-of-seven shooting performance in the contest.
The setback dropped the Spartans to 5-15 overall and to 0-9 in the University Athletic Association this season. Washington, led by Andrew Sanders' 15 points and eight rebounds, remained undefeated in the UAA with a 9-0 conference ledger, and improved to 17-3 overall.
The Spartans jumped out to the early lead on Sunday, taking a 9-5 lead on a three-point shot by freshman forward Michael Hollis with 15:18 remaining, and staying up two after a layup by Duckett with 12:07 to play in the half gave CWRU 14-12 lead. However, after shooting just three-of-18 from the field over the first nine minutes of the game, the Bears began to find their rhythm, going on a 9-0 run to take a 21-14 lead by the 9:39 mark in the first. Case Western Reserve responded off a timeout, regaining the lead following back-to-back and-ones converted by Duckett, and a layup by senior guard Javier Alvarez. Another run by Washington, this time a 10-0 spurt, put the Spartans down a period-high nine points with 4:33 to play, 33-24. But, Aloi came alive late in the period, scoring eight of his 10 first half points in the final five minutes, including a pair of threes and a jumper with 1:31 left in the half that cut the Bears' lead back to a point, 38-37. Washington would score the final four points of the first half, and carry a 42-37 lead into the break.
Duckett ended the first half with 14 points and seven rebounds, shooting five-of-seven from the field and four-of-four from the charity stripe, while Aloi's 10 first half points surpassed his career single-game high entering Sunday's contest. As a team, the Spartans outshot the Bears 45.2% to 41.7% from the floor and 35.7% to 30.0% from long range, but were hurt by eight turnovers, with Washington outscoring CWRU 14-2 off turnovers in the first half.
A layup by Zucker to start the second half trimmed the Bears' lead to three, 42-39. However, that would be as close as the Spartans would get in the second half, as Washington proceeded to go on a 12-0 run, taking a 54-39 lead with 15:40 to play. Despite a strong second half from Zucker, during which he scored 15 of his 20 points and made three of his five three point attempts, Washington would go on to lead by as many as 25 points in the period.
With the game appearing out of reach for the Spartans, trailing 83-58 with 7:11 to play, Head Coach Todd McGuinness turned to his bench, with freshman guard Darius Inzar, freshman guard Jon Paul Sinacola, freshman guard Kyle McIntosh, Mohler, and Hollis seeing the majority of playing time down the stretch. The Spartans' quintet of freshman reserves took advantage of their time on the court, quickly taking a bite out of the Bears' lead and outscoring Washington 39-19 during the closing stretch of the game. A three-pointer by Mohler, followed by a layup by Hollis off a Washington turnover with 37 seconds remaining pulled the Spartans back within six points, 97-91. After a CWRU foul, with the Bears going one-of-two from the line on the resulting free throws, a jumper by Mohler cut the lead down to just five, 98-93, with 26 seconds left. However, Washington was able to hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold off the Spartans' late run, and secure the win.
The Spartans finished the game shooting 45.9% from the floor (34-of-74) and made a season-high 14 three pointers in the game, shooting 40.0% from long range. Case Western Reserve also shot a season-best 88.2% from the free throw line on Sunday, making 15-of-17 attempts.
The Spartans will return to Cleveland for a pair of UAA home games next weekend, starting with an 8:00 p.m. tipoff against New York University on Friday, February 10th at Horsburgh Gymnasium.