The Case Western Reserve University women's basketball team made a strong bid for its first-ever road win against Washington University (Mo.), pushing the University Athletic Association leaders to the brink on Sunday afternoon, but a run by the Bears to start the fourth quarter propelled Washington past the Spartans 82-79 in Saint Louis, Missouri.
The loss was the third-straight for the Spartans, who fell to 12-6 overall and to 4-3 in the University Athletic Association. Washington, which received votes in both major national polls this past week, improved to 13-5 overall and remained perfect in conference play with a 7-0 record.
Four Spartans scored in double figures on Sunday, led by senior guard/ forward Hillary Hellmann, who finished the game with 21 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Kendall McConico added a season-high 20 points, including a career-best three three-pointers on six attempts. Sophomore forward Emma Cain added a career-high 15 points on six-of-nine shooting, and graduate student forward Kara Hageman scored 11 points and collected seven rebounds.
The Spartans led by as many as 11 points on multiple occasions during the game, but the tide turned late in the third quarter when the Bears' Rachel Sondag hit a three to cut the CWRU lead down to six points, 62-56, heading into the fourth period. The three by Sondag started an 11-0 run for the Bears that gave them a 64-62 lead 8:44 left in the game.
Hellmann tied the game with a layup with 7:23 remaining in the game, but Washington responded with a 7-0 run to take the lead for good. The Bears would lead by as many as nine in the period, and despite six points in the final minute of the contest by Hellmann helping pull the Spartans back within four, and a layup at the buzzer by McConico cutting the deficit to three, the Spartans could not even the score down the stretch.
The Spartans opened the game shooting 50.0% (16-of-32) from the floor in the opening half, including 46.7% (five-of-12) from behind the three-point line, but made just 14-of-39 shots in the second half, including just two-of-nine threes, opening the door for the Bears.
The teams went back-and-forth in the early going of the game. With the Bears leading 16-15 in the first period, Cain knocked down a pair of free throws for two of her seven points in the quarter, giving CWRU a 17-16 lead. Freshman guard Abbey Lawrence and Hageman each followed with threes, and Hageman capped off a 9-0 run with a free throw with 1:29 remaining to put the Spartans ahead 24-16, before Washington closed out the period with a basket to cut the lead to six. A three pointer by junior guard Alicia Marie Gonzales with 9:06 left in the half helped the Spartans take a nine-point lead, 29-20, and the team's lead would grow to as many as 11 in the period after a three by Hageman with 4:11 to play in the half put CWRU ahead 36-25. Washington closed the gap to five points with 2:40 to play, 36-31, but a jumper by Hellmann ended the Bears run, and the Spartans ended the half with a 44-37 lead over the Bears.
Early in the third quarter, McConico hit a three as the shot clock expired, and the stole the ball on the next possession to setup a layup for Hageman with 7:40 remaining that matched the team's largest lead of the game at 51-40. Later in the quarter, McConico made a three and was fouled, hitting the ensuing free throw to put the Spartans back ahead again by 11, 58-47. However, the Bears trimmed the lead back to seven points in the final minute of the third quarter, and after a layup by Cain with 16 seconds remaining, Sondag's key three at the end of the period put momentum back in the Bears' favor, leading to the team's comeback win in the fourth.
Sondag led the Bears with 18 points in the game, doing all of her damage from behind the arc with six made threes. Madeline Homoly and Kristina Schmelter each added 15 in the game for Washington.
Case Western Reserve will look to bounce back when the team returns home to Cleveland to host #19 Chicago and Washington next weekend. The games will be played at historic Adelbert Gymnasium for the University's annual Throwback Weekend, and the Spartans will be wearing the traditional uniforms of Mather College for the games.