By Rob Passage
NEWBURG, Ore. – Trent Callan (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) scored 13 of his team-high 17 points in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 11, leading the Willamette University men's basketball team to a 86-77 victory over the Bruins of George Fox University. Callan was one of five Bearcats in double figures.
Also providing Willamette with double-digit scoring were Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) with 15 points, Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) with 14 points, plus Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) with 13 and Hayden Russell (Sr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) with 13.
The host Bruins scored the first basket of the game and took a 4-2 lead after Willie Perkins hit his second layup of the early going, but a jumper by Willamette's Casey Thornton at 18:49 would tie the score and the Bearcats never trailed again.
Thornton's jumper was part of a 20-5 scoring run that gave Willamette a 13-point lead at 22-9 just over six minutes into the contest. That run had six different Bearcats tally at least a point, a theme that would continue throughout the rest of the contest.
George Fox followed with a run of its own, using a 14-3 burst to pull within two at 25-23. The Bruins eventually tied the score at 31 with just 5:38 to go in the half. The score was tied again at 33, before a layup by Russell provided Willamette with the lead for rest of the game.
The Bearcats took a 44-39 advantage into the locker room. Troplent led the way in the first half with 10 points and four rebounds, while McCullough and Jenkins each chipped in seven points.
A quick start to the second half saw Willamette extend its lead to twelve points at 51-39 on a Callan 3-pointer at the 18:11 mark. Another three, this time by Thornton, allowed the Bearcats to match their largest lead at 60-47 with 14:17 left.
George Fox chipped away at the Bearcats' lead over the next several minutes, and pulled as close as three points, 64-61, with just over nine minutes remaining. Russell sank a 3-pointer on Willamette's very next to push the lead to six points. The game was never closer than five points the rest of the way.
"Our team resiliency continues to amaze me," said Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane. "This group has stuck together and their ability to trust each other tonight was fun to watch."
Commenting on a game where every Bearcat who saw action contributed to the victory, Ioane was quick to compliment his team's leadership. "I thought our three captains – Nico, Brendon, and Hayden – were fantastic all night," said Ioane. "And Jordan and Trent really helped finish off the game."
The Bearcats won the battle on the boards 41 to 30, while pulling down 12 offensive rebounds. Troplent topped all players with nine rebounds. He was followed closely by Callan with eight and Jenkins with six. Johnny Verduin (Sr./So., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) grabbed five total rebounds with four boards on the offensive glass.
Willamette registered 15 assists as the Bearcats handled the Bruins' full-court pressure and multiple defensives. Thornton led the way with four assists. Conin Oishi (Jr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) dished out 3 assists, as did Troplent and Jenkins.
WU went 30 of 62 from the field (48.4%), including 7 of 22 (31.8%) beyond the arc. The Bearcats hit 19 of 27 shots from the foul line (70.4%), heating up in the second half to make 9 of 11 (81.8%) free throws.
JJ Lacy led the way for the Bruins with 19 points. George Fox connected on 31 of 63 shots from the field (49.2%). GFU shot 50% (6-12) on 3-point attempts, but only managed to make 9 of 16 free throws (56.3%).
The Bearcats will return to Cone Field House on Friday, February 17, for their final home game of the season. Tipoff for Senior Night versus Pacific University is scheduled for 8 p.m. (PST).