By John Pohl
Webster University’s men’s basketball team ended six years of futility against Washington University by defeating the Bears on Jan. 12, 61-58, at Grant Gymnasium. Webster’s cross-town rival had dominated the series by winning 17 of the 18 previous match-ups.
“We beat them in 2004, my second year here, and that was the first time we had ever beaten them,” said head coach Chris Bunch. “They have put it to us pretty good ever since.”
Junior point guard Willie Trimble poured in 18 second-half points, including several key 3-point shots, which helped the Gorloks to their sixth straight win overall. Trimble, who is a junior college transfer from southern California, has already developed into one of the team’s leaders. He averages over 16 points per game, which is tops on the team.
“Willie’s been a huge difference of what we have been doing,” Bunch said. “He takes some of the pressure off the other guys.”
WashU’s defense stifled the Gorloks early in the game with intense pressure that forced several turnovers and ill-advised shots. It took Webster nearly five minutes to get onto the scoreboard.
“They are underrated about their defense; you just don’t get a lot of open shots against them,” Bunch said.
After falling behind 16-4, Webster switched from man-to-man to a basic zone defense, which worked right away. The switch forced the Bears to shoot from the outside, and Webster began to fight back.
“They do a very good job in their offense,” Bunch said. “(WashU head coach Mark Edwards) has not won (536) games for nothing. They cut you up, guys were getting open everywhere.”
Senior forward Drew Moore hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the first half to get the Gorloks back into the game. Trimble’s running hook shot tied the game at 21-21 just before halftime.
Webster came out flat to start the second half, quickly falling behind 29-23, as they were dominated on the offensive boards. A visibly upset Bunch called a timeout at the 17:33 mark of the half.
“I got a little salty,” Bunch said. “I was a little upset that we were not fighting as hard as we did later in the second half. Early in the second half, shoot, everybody kind of stood around instead of boxing out. We did a good job of picking it back up.”
Trimble took over later in the second half, making an array of spectacular shots, including several well beyond the 3-point arc.
“When I get in a zone, pretty much no one can stop me,” Trimble said. “I felt like anything I put up in the air was going in.”
Moore hit another jump shot with 3:25 left and gave Webster its biggest lead at 59-52. However, WashU would not quit. The Bears’ Ben Hoener hit back-to-back shots and the lead was down to three with just over a minute left, 59-56. Webster senior Robbie Meeh sank a free throw with six seconds left and the Gorloks held on for the victory against a team that won NCAA Division III titles in 2008 and 2009.
Trimble — who played for Riverside Community College last season — finished the game with 22 points, while Moore chipped in 10 points.
The team traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, three days later and took on Spalding University for an important St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game. The Gorloks broke a second place conference tie with the Golden Eagles after a convincing 66-52 win, snapping Spalding’s four-game winning streak.
Webster started the game in a zone and Spalding had trouble adjusting, as they shot only 37 percent in the first half, allowing the Gorloks to build a 15-point lead.
“We did not want to have the game start like the WashU game, so we started with a zone this time,” Bunch said. “We mixed zones up to disrupt them and throw them off of bit.”
Moore had another solid game, as he led Webster with 15 points, four assists and four steals.
“Drew is playing well coming back from that foot injury,” Bunch said. “Each game he is getting a little better.”
Moore had missed five games because of the injury, but he is healthy now, as is the rest of the team.
“Coming back from the injury fueled me,” Moore said. “The key to the way things are going right now is we are playing really good defense, we’re healthy and we’re gelling now.”
The Gorloks are 10-4 overall and face another tough conference opponent this week. The Westminster College Blue Jays (7-0 in the SLIAC) visit Grant Gymnasium Jan. 19 at 8 p.m.
Webster will also face the Greenville Panthers on Jan. 22 and the Principia Panthers on Jan. 25. Greenville sports a 4-2 record in the SLIAC, while Principia is 2-4.
“This week is a big week for us,” Bunch said. “If we can win Wednesday, it puts us in a good position. If not, we’ll be looking up.”