By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. --The Willamette University Bearcats hope to build momentum with road games at University of Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran University as the Northwest Conference men's basketball schedule resumes this weekend. The Bearcats, who defeated Portland Bible College, 79-74, at Cone Field House on Dec. 30, will take on Puget Sound on Friday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. (PST) in Tacoma, Washington. WU will battle PLU on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 6 p.m. in Parkland, Washington.
Willamette is 2-9 on the season and 0-2 in the NWC. Three of the losses were by one point, four points and eight points. The team had been within six points or less in the final minutes of several games.
Puget Sound is 8-3 overall and 1-1 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran enters the weekend at 5-6 overall, 0-2 in the NWC.
The top scorer for the Bearcats is Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) with 10.5 points per game. He scored a career-high 19 points against Saint John's University (Minn.) on Nov. 25. Jenkins has connected on 50.8% of his shots (35 fo 65), including 7 of 14 from 3-point range. He has recorded 4.2 rebounds per game.
Johnny Verduin (Sr./So., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) adds 9.5 points per game. He registered a career-high 20 points to lead WU to an 85-81 win over University of Texas-Tyler. Verduin ranks first among the team's top shooters at 53.2% accuracy on field goals (41 of 77).
Three other Bearcats -- Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS), Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS), and Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) -- are averaging more than 8.5 points per game. Troplent has scored 9.2 points per contest, with Thornton at 9.0 points per game and Russell at 8.7 points per game.
Russell has scored in double figures in four consecutive games. He has scored 64 points in those games for an average of 16.0 points per game.
Troplent leads the Bearcats with 5.6 rebounds per game, while Thornton follows with 4.6 boards per contest. Thornton ranks first with 17 blocked shots, including a career-high four blocks against Northwest Christian University on Nov. 19.
Conin Oishi (Jr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) tops the stats with 24 assists. Russell has earned 22 assists, with Troplent recording 21 and Jenkins supplying 20.