By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University held a slim 37-35 lead against Pacific Lutheran with 12:43 left in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 10. The Bearcats outscored the Lutes 19-5 over the next 8:13 to take a 56-40 lead. Willamette remained in front by double digits the rest of the way and defeated the Lutes, 60-46. Jordan Jenkins (Jr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) led the Bearcats with 13 points, while Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Guadaloupe, France/Cathedral HS) contributed 12 points and eight rebounds.
It was Senior Night at Cone Field House. The Bearcats honors their six seniors prior to the game.
The Bearcats went 2-0 over the weekend to improve to 11-12 on the season, 6-8 in the Northwest Conference. On Friday, the Bearcats downed Pacific University, 70-64, in Forest Grove, Oregon. Pacific Lutheran fell to 4-18 overall, 1-13 in the NWC.
"Senior Nights are always a balancing act of trying to send those guys off with a win and being true to who we have been all year," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "I loved that we did both things tonight. I'm very proud to have watched those six kids play for four years here in Cone Field House. Getting them a win tonight -- and their 11th win of the year -- was awesome."
Willamette's key scoring surge began with a seven unanswered points on a 3-pointer and a jumper by Casey Thornton (Sr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS), plus a layup by Troplent. Leighton Kingma hit a 3-point shot for the Lutes to cut the margin to 44-38 with 10:25 remaining. The Bearcats scored the next five points for a 49-38 advantage, as Brendon McCullough (Sr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) sank a 3-pointer at the 8:55 mark and Dylan Critchfield (Sr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) made two free throws with 8:19 left.
The Lutes earned the next two points on a jumper by Kingsma, but Willamette closed out the 19-5 run with another 7-0 spurt. Trent Callan (Jr., G, Portland, ORLincoln HS) scored on a jumper, Jenkins added a layup, and Callan provided a layup on a fast-break. Nathan Sherfey (Sr., F, Chehalis, WAW.F. West HS) hit 1 of 2 free throws with 4:30 remaining to give Willamette a 56-40 advantage.
Jenkins, in addition to leading the Bearcats in scoring, finished the night with four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Troplent's eight points helped the Bearcats outrebound PLU, 32-30, including an 11-7 margin in offensive boards. Thornton scored nine points, hauled down four rebounds and blocked two shots. McCullough scored seven points. Conin Oishi (Sr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) hit a 3-point shot, grabbed five boards, and also earned three assists, one blocked shot and one steal.
WU forced PLU into 23 turnovers, while the Bearcats lost the ball 15 times. Willamette earned a 26-22 advantage in the paint and a 19-14 edge in points off turnovers.
Kingsma and Zac Webb each scored 12 points for the Lutes. Kingsma also grabbed a team-high six rebounds, while Webb finished with five boards. Dylan Foreman recorded nine points and five rebounds. Luke Worley also achieved five rebounds.
Both teams struggled for key stretches in the first half. Willamette held leads of 6-2 at the 16:38 mark and 9-4 following a 3-pointer by Alec Barba (Fr., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) with 14:13 on the clock. Pacific Lutheran eventually took a 15-11 lead at the end of a 7-0 run that featured five points by Kyle James. WU answered with an 8-0 run, ending with one 3-pointer each by Tropent and Oishi, as the Bearcats claimed a 19-15 edge with 5:40 left.
The teams exchanged baskets for a couple of miniutes, leaving WU with a 23-19 edge. PLU scored the final six points of the half to take a 25-23 lead. Kelton Williams tallied the final basket on a layup with four seconds on the clock.
Willamette and Pacific Lutheran remained close on the scoreboard in the second half until the Bearcats went on their decisive run.
The Bearcats shot 38.6% from the field (22 of 57), but hit 46.4% of their field goals in the second half after shooting just 31.0% in the first half. The Lutes shot 41.9% for the game (18 of 43), but connected on just 8 of 23 attempts (34.8%) over the final 20 minutes. WU put through 7 of 25 three-points shots, while the Lutes made 3 of 9 tries from behind the arc.
Next weekend, the Bearcats will take on Whitman College and Whitworth University in a pair of NWC road games. The Bearcats will battle the Blues on Friday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. (PST), before facing Whitworth on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. Whitman is ranked #1 and Whitworth is ranked #4 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll.