By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
FOREST GROVE, Ore. -- Skyler Burgess of Pacific University scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Boxers to a 72-56 win over Willamette University in the Northwest Conference men's basketball opener for both teams at the Stoller Center. Pacific improved to 4-3 overall, 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 1-5 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC.
In addition to leading Pacific in scoring, Burgess provided the Boxers with eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks. Michael Joseph of Pacific topped all players with 15 rebounds, helping the Boxers claim a 44-26 rebounding margin.
Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) scored 13 points for Willamette. Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) added nine points, six rebounds, three assists and a block shot.
Pacific recorded the first six points of the game on two baskets by Burgess and one by Nate Olowo. The Boxers extended their lead to 13-4 after a layup by Burgess with 15:34 remaining in the first half.
WU pulled within 16-10 on a jumper by Brown less than two minutes later, and eventually reduced the lead to three points, 20-17, when Nathan Sherfey (So., W, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS) was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws with 8:41 left in the half.
The Boxers held a 25-21 lead after Brown put in a layup for Willamette at the 6:19 mark. Pacific scored the next five points to open a 11-2 run and claim a 36-23 lead. Six of the points were scored by K.C. Harrison, who began and ended the run with 3-pointers. Burgess tallied the other five points.
Pacific led the Bearcats 38-29 at halftime, but Willamette opened the second half with a 10-2 run to get within 40-39 with 15:48 remaining.
Luedtke scored the first four points of the half on a pair of layups. After Michael Joseph provided Pacific with a basket, Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) added a 3-pointer for Willamette. Brown completed the run with a layup and a foul shot.
The Bearcats never moved into the lead, but trailed just 52-46 with 11:55 to go following two free throws by Conin Oishi (So., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS).
Pacific responded with a 9-0 run to take control at 61-46 with 7:14 left. Burgess hit a free throw to start the run, which continued with four consecutive baskets by Devon Pouncey.
Pouncey and Harrison joined Burgess in double figures for the Boxers, as Pouncey scored 12 points and Harrison added 11. Pouncey was 6 of 7 from the field -- all in the second half.
Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) recorded all eight of his points in the second half for Willamette. He connected on 3 of 4 shots, including 2 for 3 from 3-point range.
Willamette forced Pacific into 19 turnovers, while the Bearcats lost the ball 12 times. Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) led the Bearcats with three steals, while Bobby Ahern earned three steals for Pacific.
The Boxers shot 56.4% for the game (31 of 55) and made 5 of 15 three-pointers (33.3%). Willamette converted 35.7% of its field goals (20 of 56) and hit 4 of 15 three-point shots (26.7%). Both teams struggled at the free throw line, as WU sank 12 of 22 shots and Pacific made 5 of 10.
Willamette will host Pacific Lutheran University in NWC action on Saturday, Dec. 5. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. (PST) at Cone Field House.