ST. LOUIS — No. 20 Washington (Mo.) put together its top defensive effort of the season, limiting No. 4 Rochester to a season-low 31.7 percent shooting in a 72-53 victory Sunday in University Athletic Association (UAA) play at the WU Field House.
Washington improved to 18-4 overall and 8-3 in the UAA, while Rochester drops to 20-2 and 9-2 in conference play. The Yellowjackets hold a one-game lead on Washington with three regular season games remaining.
Junior guard Tim Cooney led the defensive effort for Washington, limiting reigning UAA Player of the Year and All-American John DiBartolomeo to 19 points on just 5 of 16 shooting. DiBartolomeo entered the contest leading the UAA and was seventh in Division III in scoring at 23.0 points per game. Cooney also chipped in with nine points, six rebounds and a career-high with six assists on the offensive end.
Junior forward Chris Klimek led all scorers with 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting from the field, while junior guard Alan Aboona (11 points, eight assists), senior center Robert Burnett (11 points, six rebounds) and sophomore forward Nick Burt (10 points, five rebounds) also scored in double figures. Sophomore Matt Palucki added eight points and a game-high 10 boards in the win.
Washington shot 50.8 percent (30 of 59) from the field, and outrebounded Rochester 44-30. The Bears also had 24 assists in the win, eclipsing 20 or more assists for the eighth time this season.
Washington scored the first seven points of the game on a 3-pointer by Palucki and a pair of buckets by Klimek. Rochester knotted the contest at eight on a pair of 3-pointers, and led 13-12 before DiBartolomeo went to the bench. The Bears scored six consecutive points in a span of three minutes with DiBartolomeo on the bench to a take an 18-13 lead.
The Bears stretched the lead to 10 with a 9-2 run before a timeout by Rochester with 6:15 to play. Out of the timeout, DiBartolomeo hit a jumper and a step-back 3-pointer to trim the lead to 27-22. Aboona answered with an off-balance 3-pointer to highlight a 14-0 run by the Bears to end the first half with a 41-22 lead. Aboona and Klimek each had six points during the decisive run, as Rochester did not score in the final 5:19.
Klimek had 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting in the opening half to lead all scorers, as Washington shot 54.5 percent (18 of 33) from the field. The Bears outrebounded Rochester 19-14 and had a 9-3 advantage in second-chance points. Washington had 15 assists and just two turnovers in the opening 20 minutes of play.
Rochester cut the lead to 17 (54-37) with a 3-pointer by Nate Vernon with 11:01 to play, but the Bears put the game out of reach with a 12-4 run to push the advantage to 66-41. Cooney had a 3-pointer from the wing and added a layup to cap the run.
Rochester, who entered the game leading the UAA in 3-point field goal percentage (.429), hit just 6 of 26 (23.1 percent) from beyond the arc in the loss. Vernon added nine points and Rob Reid had eight in the loss.