CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – No. 12 Washington University in St. Louis upset No. 1 and previously unbeaten Thomas More 72-53 on Friday night to advance to the NCAA Division III sectional final for the third consecutive season.
Washington University will face University Athletic Association (UAA) rival No. 6 Chicago on Saturday, March 12, at 8 p.m. ET, for the right to advance to the Division III Final Four. Chicago picked up an 87-61 victory against No. 15 Greensboro earlier on Friday to advance to the NCAA sectional final for the first time in school history.
Washington University was combatting its fourth consecutive opponent ranked in the top 10, and the third consecutive top-10 team in the NCAA Tournament. Thomas More (30-1) was also the second undefeated team the Bears have eliminated from this postseason, after Washington University dispatched undefeated Denison in the first round last Friday in Holland, Mich.
It was also the second consecutive season the Bears eliminated Thomas More from postseason play on the Saints’ home court. Washington U. picked up an 80-64 victory last season in the NCAA second round.
Washington University trailed Thomas More by as many as seven points in the first half but managed to take a slim 28-27 lead into the locker room thanks to a scoring frenzy from junior Claire Schaeperkoetter.
The Saints started the game hot from downtown, hitting four of their first seven shots from long distance to build a 25-18 cushion with 5:40 to play in the opening period. Three different players connected on 3s for Thomas More with Devin Beasley hitting the last one to create the seven-point advantage.
From there Schaeperkoetter took over, scorching Thomas More for eight points in a span of just 59 seconds. She hit a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line to pull the Bears within five, and went on to drain 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to put Washington University in front by one, its first lead in nearly 10 minutes of action.
Defensively Washington University was stellar down the stretch, holding Thomas More without a field goal and just a pair of free throws over the final 5:40 of the first half. After Beasley’s 3 the Saints missed their final seven field goal attempts of the half and saw their shooting percentage fall to 33.3 (8-of-24).
The Bears carried their momentum from the end of the first half into the second, outscoring the Saints 10-3 during the first 5:20 of the period while limitingThomas More to just one field goal.
Washington University took its first double-digit lead at 42-32 following a pair of Kathryn Berger free throws, but the Saints responded with a 7-2 run, capped off by a Nicole Dickman three-point play, to pull back within five. The Bears answered with jumpers from Alex and Dani Hoover to go back up by nine, and went on totake firm control of the game thanks to a stretch of 2:20 where Dani Hooverscored eight points and knocked down two 3s.
After the elbow jumper that gave the Bears a 48-39 lead, Hoover knocked down a 3-pointer to put the Red and Green in front by 10 points and hit again from downtown one minute later to make the score 56-43. Washington University led by double digits for the remainder of the game.
Dani Hoover’s 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting led five Bears in double figures. Berger, sophomore Kristin Anda and Schaeperkoetter each scored 11 and Alex Hoover chipped in with 10.
Berger also pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. With 11 points she increased her career-total to 1,091, moving past Hallie Hutchens for 10th place in school history. Berger also improved her career rebound tally to 695, moving her past Karen Hermann forsixth place at Washington University.
The Saints’ leading scorer Dickman finished with just five points and the 53 points for the team fell well below its average of 69.1 per game. Washington University entered the game ranked 35th in Division III in opponent scoring, limiting its opponents to just 53.6 ppg. The Bears also dominated the glass, outrebounding Thomas More 50-28 on Friday night while outscoring the Saints14-2 in second-chance opportunities.