March 7, 2009

Courtesy of Bearsports.wstl.edu

Elmhurst, Ill. - Junior Aaron Thompson scored a game-high 21 points and senior Sean Wallis added 20 as the second-ranked and defending national champion Washington University in St. Louis men's basketball team posted a 73-70 victory versus No. 8 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the second round of the 2009 NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday night at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Ill.

Thompson was 7-of-16 from the field and 4-of-5 from the foul line, and also pulled down a career-high 10 rebounds and added seven assists in 39 minutes of action. Wallis, who was 1-for-10 in the win on Friday, hit 7-of-13 from the field and hit a season-best five three-pointers.

"I have been working with assistant coach Tim Whittle for the past month on my jumper, and I am happy that it finally payed off. All I want to do is help this team win," said Wallis, who eclipsed 800 points for his career. "This was a very big win for our team and its nice to play again next weekend."

Washington U., which tied a school record with its 25th win of the season, advances to the Sectional Semifinals to take on No. 3 Wheaton (Ill.) College on Friday night at a site to be determined. The Bears also won 25 games in 2006-07 and 2007-08.

"That is what championship basketball is all about," said Washington University head coach Mark Edwards. "We knew they were a great team, and we played with a lot of confidence today."

The Bears' defense set the tone early in the contest, forcing three turnovers and denying the Warhawks their first 10 shots from the field. Washington U., which started Friday's game against Lawrence 2-for-17, hit five of its first nine shots and jumped ahead 11-0 with 11:48 left in the first half.

Leading 17-6, the shots began to come up short and UW-Whitewater took advantage. Myles McKay scored four straight points and Billy Kolinske added a lay-up to trim the lead to 17-12 before a media timeout with 7:33 left in the half. Out of the timeout, Wallis nailed a triple from the corner, and then added another three at the 3:49 mark to push the advantage to 27-21.

The Bears ended the first half on a 10-3 run to take a 37-26 lead to the locker room. Thompson's three gave WU a 30-23 lead, and then his second triple with 55 seconds left pushed the advantage to 37-26.

Wallis (13 points) and Thompson (10 points) led the Bears in the first half, as Washington U. shot 47.1 percent (16-34) from the field. Thompson also added six rebounds and five assists. The Bears forced 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes of play, and turned those into an 18-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

"Aaron Thompson has done that all year long," Edwards added. "You have to have a guy like that on every team."

Washington U.'s defense forced three consecutive turnovers and Whitewater missed its first three shots of the half as the Bears built a 42-26 lead early in the second half. WU took the lead up to 18 (48-30) on a lay-up by freshman Alex Toth with 15:03 left, but the Warhawks would not go away.

The Bears committed five turnovers on six possessions, resulting in an 8-0 run by Whitewater to trim the lead to 49-44. WU got the advantage back to seven (53-46), but a three-pointer by Phil Negri from the top of the key cut the lead to 54-53.

Another three-pointer from Negri from the top of the key capped a 7-2 run by UW-Whitewater giving the Warhawks its first lead of the game at 61-60 with 5:13 left. Thompson and Wallis followed with back-to-back treys to give the Bears the lead for good.

After Wallis connected on 1-of-2 free-throws with 1:01 remaining to give WU a three-point lead, Myles McKay scored on a runner to cut the lead to one. Thompson missed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, and then Matt Goodwin was fouled with eight seconds left give UW-Whitewater a shot to take the lead.

Goodwin missed both free-throws to keep the score at 71-70, and then Thompson was fouled with 5.4 seconds left. He drained both free throws. Kingsby's desperation three at the buzzer was off the mark.

UW-Whitewater, which was making its 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, had three players score in double figures in the loss: McKay (18), Goodwin (16) and Dustin Mitchell (12). The Warhawks committed 18 turnovers in the loss, and Washington U. turned that into a 24-10 advantage.

WU shot 48.3 percent (28-58) from the field and hit 8-of-20 from three-point range. The Bears have now won 37 of their last 38 games when leading at halftime, and improved to 6-1 against teams ranked in the top-25.

Senior Tyler Nading added 17 points, eight rebounds, and five assists in 37 minutes of action. Junior John Wolf added three points and a career-best seven rebounds off the bench for the Bears.