Senior Troy Ruths scored 33 points to lead the Bears to their first NCAA Division III men’s basketball national championship with a 90-68 victory. The Bears defeated defending national champion Amherst College March 22 at the Salem Civic Center in Salem, Va.
The title gave WUSTL its second national championship this academic year — along with women’s volleyball — and its first-ever men’s team national title in any sport.
The Final Four victories came in front of a thrilled contingent of WUSTL fans, who came in busloads to watch the Bears. Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton was there for the title game and joined the celebration at center court for the presentation of the national championship trophy.
“Obviously it is a tremendous thrill for us to come out here and win the national championship. I think we played two great games against two good teams,” said head coach Mark Edwards, who improved his overall record to 477-233 in 27 seasons on the Danforth Campus. “To me, that’s what basketball is all about. That’s Division III athletics, and these are the kids that exemplify that.”
Ruths, who was named Most Outstanding Player of the championship tournament and the D3hoops.com National Player of the Year, was 9-of-13 from the field and hit a career-high 15-of-17 from the foul line in the title game. He averaged 31.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game at the Final Four, shooting 71.4 percent (20-28) from the field and 88.5 percent (23-26) from the foul line.
Sophomore Aaron Thompson contributed 19 points and four assists against Amherst and joined Ruths on the All-Tournament Team. Thompson averaged 17.0 points and 4.0 assists per game during the two-game stretch.
“Throughout the whole season, I saw a lot double-teams and triple-teams, and these last two games, they decided to play me straight up, and that’s what I was praying for,” said Ruths, who finished his WUSTL career second in points with 1,801.
The Bears made it clear early they were going inside to Ruths as he scored six of the first eight points, giving WUSTL an 8-2 lead.
WUSTL held a 45-32 halftime advantage after shooting 53.3 percent (16-30) from the field and 88.9 percent (8-9) from the free-throw line.
Tyler Nading added 13 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals against Amherst for the Bears, who tied a school record with their 25th win of the season. The Bears also won 25 games in 2001-02 and 2006-07. WUSTL outrebounded Amherst, 28-23, and improved its season record to 17-0 when leading at the half.