By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Lewis & Clark College held a 42-23 halftime lead and later owned a 64-45 advantage with 10:06 to play, but Willamette University nearly pulled off an amazing comeback. WU reduced the margin to 72-70 at the 1:48 mark, before the Pioneers held on for an 80-73 win over the Bearcats on Friday, Jan. 18. After shooting 26.9% (7 of 26) in the first half, Willamette connected on 54.3% of its field goals in the second half (19 of 35).
The Bearcats ended the night at 4-12 overall, 1-6 in the Northwest Conference. Lewis & Clark advanced its record to 5-11, including 1-6 in the NWC.
Jordan Jenkins (Sr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) continued his strong play for Willamette by providing the Bearcats with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He also was credited with three assists, one blocked shot and one steal. He was 7 of 12 on field goals and went 8 for 12 at the free throw line. Jenkins, who is averaging 18.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, has scored at least 20 points in 10 of the last 14 games.
Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) and Ben Sutton (So., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS) each supplied Willamette with 14 points. Sutton was 6 for 7 from the field, and finished with six rebounds, a block and a steal. Jonathan Watts (Fr., G, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) registered 11 points, blocked two shots and led all players with five steals.
"We played an inspired second half," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "The challenge is finding that same energy and passion for 40 minutes."
Two L&C players -- Zeke Crawford and Daelon Floyd -- led the Pioneers. Crawford earned 22 points and 10 rebounds. He converted 10 of 15 field goals. Floyd tacked on 21 points to go with seven rebounds and three assists. Andrew Panicacci scored 10 points.
L&C's ability to thwart Willamette's offensive efforts in the first half allowed the home team to take control relatively early in the game. Even so, Willamette led by three points twice in the opening minutes, and the Bearcats trailed by a modest 17-12 margin with just under 14 minutes left in the half.
The Pioneers went on an 11-2 run to surge out to a 28-14 lead following a layup by Jalen Lowery at the 11:38 mark. Lewis & Clark maintained a double-digit advantage and extended the margin to 19 points two times in the final minute of the half.
Early in the second half, Willamette got as close as 14 points at 42-28 on a layup by Watts with 18:39 on the clock and again at 54-40 following a 3-pointer by Jenkins with 14:19 left. The Pioneers remained in control during the rest of the first 10 minutes of the half. As the clock ticked below 10 minutes, WU trailed by 19 points at 64-45.
Lewis & Clark's lead was reduced to 70-59 at the 5:55 mark on a 3-pointer by Watts that was assisted by Jenkins. The Bearcats scored the next four points on a pair of layups from Jenkins, as Willmette cut the margin to seven points. A layup by Crawford of L&C with 3:25 to go gave the Pioneers a 72-63 edge.
Crawford's basket only slowed down the rally for a moment, as Willamette continued to battle. Callan hit two free throws for WU with 3:11 remaining, and then the Bearcats forced back-to-back turnovers by the Pioneers. Both turnovers were caused by Watts, who not only stole the ball each time, but completed the plays with fast-break layups. Willamette trailed by just three points, 72-69, with 2:26 to go.
After another turnover by Lewis & Clark, the Bearcats got the ball to Jenkins, who drove inside and was fouled. Jenkins hit the first free throw to pull WU within 72-70, but the second free throw went part-way into the basket and popped back out. Ryan Cibull connected on a 3-pointer from the top of the key for L&C with 1:27 left, giving the Pioneers a 75-70 lead. Willamette got as close as 76-73 on a layup by Sutton with 39 seconds on the clock, but L&C sank 4 of 5 free throws the rest of the way to clinch the win.
Willamette shot 42.6% from the field (26 of 61), but converted just 6 of 23 three-point attempts (26.1%). The Pioneers made 28 of 65 field goals for 43.1%, but also struggled from long range, hitting just 5 of 21 attempts (23.8%). Both teams excelled at the free throw line, where Willamette put through 15 of 19 shots and L&C hit 19 of 22.
The Bearcats kept their turnovers in single digits for the third game in a row with just nine miscues. Lewis & Clark lost possession 12 times, helping WU gain a 12-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The Pioneers registered a 39-33 rebounding margin.
Willamette has played six of its first seven NWC games on the road. The second home game in NWC action is set for Saturday (Jan. 19) against George Fox University. Game time is slated for 6 p.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Willamette's massive comeback from 19 points down to almost win
the game received a big boost when Jonathan Watts created steals
on back-to-back possessions by Lewis & Clark, and then turned those
steals into fast-break layups. The two baskets pulled the Bearcats
within 72-69 with 2:26 left in the game. Willamette got as close as
72-70 before the Pioneers went on a 8-3 run to end the game.