HOLLAND, Mich. – No. 12 Washington University in St. Louis handed No. 10 Denison its first loss of the season in a 71-55 victory in the opening round of the 2011 NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament on Friday night at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

Washington University, which is making its NCAA Division III record 22nd-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, never trailed against the Big Red as it won its ninth-consecutive NCAA Tournament opener. The Bears also stretched their Division III record postseason win total to 56, and improved to 56-18 (.757) all-time in postseason action.

Seniors Alex Hoover and Kathryn Berger led the way for Washington University, scoring 11 points apiece. Berger increased her career scoring tally to 1,074 moving past Jaimie McFarlin for 11th place in school history.

Washington University will face either regional host No. 4 Hope College or No. 8 DePauw University in the second round on Saturday at 7 p.m. Washington U. defeated DePauw 58-56 on Nov. 21, but fell 49-47 to Hope on Dec. 29. Should the Bears face Hope, it will be a rematch of last year’s NCAA Division III national championship game, which Washington U. won 65-59 in Bloomington, Ill.

Washington University’s stifling defense led to a 13-point 29-26 lead at the intermission. The Bears held Denison to just nine field goals and 33.3 percent shooting and the Big Red went a stretch of more than seven minutes in the first half without a field goal. Washington U. forced 13 Big Red turnovers in the opening half as Denison entered the game averaging just 13.3 turnovers per game.

Washington U. jumped out to an 8-0 lead while forcing four Denison turnovers and the Bears went up 14-6 when Alex Hoover drained her first 3 of the game. The Bears hit five of their first seven field goals and were 3 of 3 from 3-point range in building an early eight-point margin.

Denison cut the WUSTL lead to six at 25-19 with a Nicole Coggins jumper, but the Bears answered with a 12-2 run over the ensuing 7:16. Denison’s Serafina Nuzzo missed a 3-pointer that would have pulled the Big Red to within three points, but Alex Hoover came down with the rebound and found Berger for an open 3 in transition to put the Red and Green ahead by nine and spark the crucial scoring run.

Washington U. shot 57.7 percent from the field in the opening period (15 of 26), which included 6 of 8 shooting from long distance. Berger led all scorers with 11 points, including three 3-pointers, with Alex Hoover scoring nine and senior Hannah Cusworth chipping in with eight. 

Nuzzo, who entered the game ranked sixth in Division III in assist-to-turnover ratio, turned the ball over five times with zero assists and four points in the first half. She ended the game with one assist and six turnovers.

Denison started the second half shooting just 3 of 17 as Washington University built nearly a 30-point lead. Freshman Jordan Rettig hit a baseline hook shot to give Washington U. a 20-point lead with 12:24 to play and sophomore Kristin Anda found junior Bethany Morrison for a wide-open backdoor layup on the next possession to make the margin 22.

The Washington U. defense limited Denison to another extended stretch without a basket in the second half. The Big Red went more than eight minutes without a score from the 15:36 mark until there was 7:34 to play, with the Bears scoring 14 unanswered points during that run.