By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Jordan Jenkins (Sr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) scored 23 points, grabbed nine boards and supplied seven assists, while Jonathan Watts (Fr., G, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) provided a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, as Willamette University knocked off #5-ranked Whitworth University, 95-93, on Saturday, Jan. 26 at Cone Field House. Justus Eaglesmith (So., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS) made several key shots in the final minute for the Bearcats, as he hit a 3-pointer with 58 seconds left for a 91-86 lead, and then sank 4 of 4 free throws in the final 18 seconds.
Whitworth, which entered the game holding the #5 position in the D3hoops.com Top 25, dropped to 16-3 overall, 8-2 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette improved to 6-13 on the season, 3-7 in the NWC. The Bearcats are 5-4 at home, even with a loss to #3-ranked Whitman College on Friday.
The Bearcats bounced back from Friday's loss in a big way. Against the Pirates on Saturday, Willamette shot 59.0% from the field (36 of 61) and hit 12 of 20 three-pointers (60.0%). Whitworth was 29 of 55 on field goals (52.7%) and made 8 of 18 three-point attempts (44.4%). The Pirates held an edge at the free throw line by going 27 of 38, while the Bearcats sank 11 of 13 free throws.
Eaglesmith finished with 18 points and led the Bearcats with four successful 3-points shots. Joining Jenkins, Watts, and Eaglesmith in double figures for Willamette were Ben Sutton (So., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS) with 12 points and Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) with 11. Sutton also provided five assists.
The win over Whitworth was the first for Willamette since an 82-74 win in Spokane, Washington, on Feb. 2, 2008. In between, the Pirates won 22 consecutive meetings, including an NWC Tournament game at the end of the 2014-15 season.
Whitworth was led by Jared Christy and Ben College, both with 22 points. Christy also provided Whitworth with eight rebounds and three assists. Kyle Roach tacked on 12 points for the Pirates and led all players with two steals. Isaiah Hernandez scored 11 points and was 4 for 5 from the field.
"I'm so happy for our players, both past and present," said Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane. "So many of them had a hand in this, and for a lot of them to be three tonight while this current group finished the job was special. From Jordan Jenkins to Jonathan Watts to Justus Eaglesmith so many guys made big plays that it was the epitome of a true program win."
Willamette led by as many as 14 points during the first 20 minutes, and took a 50-43 advantage into the halftime break. The Bearcats held a 67-55 lead with 11:06 left in the second half following a 3-pointer by Watts. The Pirates cut the margin to five points with nine minutes to go, and pulled within 80-76 on a 3-pointer by Hernandez with 5:59 left.
A bit later, Whitworth reduced the lead to 82-79 on a pair of free throws by Keivn Crosno with 3:58 remaining. The Bearcats eventually took an 88-80 lead when Watts put through a 3-pointer with 2:48 on the clock. College answered with a 3-pointer for the Pirates. The trifecta started a 6-0 run that reduced the deficit to 88-86 on a layup by Lester at the 1:20 mark.
That's when Eaglesmith stepped up for the Bearcats. His 3-pointer from the corner with 58 seconds left increased the lead to 91-86. A jumper by Christy with 44 seconds on the clock and two free throws by Hernandez with 20 seconds to play, pulled the Pirates within a single point at 91-90. Eaglesmith was fouled with 18.7 seconds left and sank both free throws.
Lester added one 1 of 2 free throws for Whitworth 15.7 seconds left, reducing the margin to 93-91. Eaglesmith countered by sinking two more free throws for Willamette with 13.8 seconds remaining to supply the Bearcats a 95-91 advantage.
College hit two free throws for Whitworth when he was fouled in the paint with 8.3 seconds to go, as the Pirates got within 95-93. A turnover gave Whitworth the ball again in the Pirates' offensive half with 5.7 seconds left, but College missed a lengthy 3-pointer with two seconds to go. Watts grabbed the rebound to clinch the win for the Bearcats.
The Bearcats shot 60.6% in the first half and 57.1% in the second half. For the game, Jenkins was 9 for 13 from the field, while Watts finished 7 of 12, Sutton was 6 of 8. On 3-points attempts, Eaglesmith went 4 of 6, Callan was 3 of 3, and Watts added a 3-for-5 performance. Alec Barba (So., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) was 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
Each team limited its turnovers. Willamette had 12 turnovers, while Whitworth lost possession just five times. The Pirates' low number of turnovers and advantage at the free throw line was unable to offset Willamette's 36 field goals, 12 three-pointers and 32-24 rebounding edge.
Willamette with host Pacific Lutheran University on Friday, Feb. 1. Game time at Cone Field House is set for 8 p.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
The Big Moment from the Big Win over #5 Whitworth goes to
Justus Eaglesmith for his 3-pointer with 58 seconds left and his
four free throws in the final 18 seconds. His 3-pointer from the
corner gave the Bearcats a 91-86 advantage. After the Pirates
pulled within one point, Eaglesmith made two free throws with
18.7 seconds remaining. With 13.8 seconds to go, Eaglesmith
sank two more free throws for a 95-91 lead.