By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Caleb Roberts (Sr., W, Salem, OR/North HS) sank a 3-point shot with 35 seconds left to give Willamette University a one-point lead, and Alex Barba (So., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) made 1 of 2 free throws with 14 seconds to go, as the Bearcats scored the last four points to defeat University of California, Santa Cruz, 73-71, at Cone Field House on Thursday, Dec. 20. Willamette trailed by 11-points with 13:54 left in the game and rallied from a 63-54 deficit with 7:21 remaining.
The Bearcats improved to 2-7 with their second consecutive win. UC Santa Cruz fell to 6-7.
Jordan Jenkins (Sr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) led the way for Willamette with 23 points and 11 rebounds. He was 6 of 13 from the field and hit 11 of 14 free throws. Jenkins has scored 20 or more points in six of the last seven games -- including five games in a row -- and has reached double figures in every game this season. Jenkins increased his career totals to 777 points and 404 rebounds.
The go-ahead trifecta by Roberts was his fifth 3-pointer of the game. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds. Jonathan Watts (Fr., G, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) also scored 15 points for the Bearcats, while connecting on 6 of 9 field goals. Watts earned four rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jenkins tied Watts with a team-high four assists.
Also reaching double figures for the Bearcats was Justus Eaglesmith (So., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS), who scored 12 points. Eaglesmith put through 2 of 5 three-point shots. He is shooting 47.6% from 3-point range this season (20 of 42).
WU played without starting point guard Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS). Callan, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder, missed the game due to an injury.
Five players supplied double-digit scoring for the Banana Slugs. Haakon Ullrich produced 14 points and was 6 for 7 from the field. He contributed six rebounds. Sam Gabbard scored 13 points, hauled down a game-high 17 boards, and was credited with four assists. Will Crain followed with 12 points and 11 rebounds, plus a game-high three blocked shots. Russell Taylor scored 11 points and Simon Mueller-Landsvik tallied 10 points.
"I'm so happy for our guys to see them rally together for a huge win," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "You can't underestimate how powerful a true team win like this can be as a momentum builder. And to do it without Trent being available is even more impressive. From Jordan to Caleb to Jonathan, we just had big-time plays by guys in big-time situations."
In the first half, Willamette led by as many as eight points at 25-17 following a 3-pointer by Watts with 8:00 on the clock. The Banana Slugs scored the next six points to start a 11-2 run. UCSC moved in front 28-27 when Calvin Keyes completed the run with a layup at the 4:27 mark. A bit later, Barba provided WU with a 34-31 lead on a 3-point basket with 2:37 left. The Bearcats were in front 40-37 at halftime.
Eaglesmith tacked on a 3-pointer to increase Willamette's lead to 43-37 just 17 seconds into the second half. UC Santa Cruz countered with a 16-0 run to take a 53-43 advantage with 15:03 left on a 3-pointer by Gabbard. Taylor scored nine points during the run, including a 3-pointer to start the offensive surge. A free throw by Jenkins of Willamette and two free throws by Crain of UCSC resulted in a 55-44 edge for the Banana Slugs.
Jenkins pulled the Bearcats within 55-50 on a layup with 12:15 remaining, but a jumper by Ullrich and a layup by Keyes extended UCSC's lead to 59-50. The Banana Slugs held a nine-point lead two more times, including a 63-54 margin after a layup by Crain.
Willamette used a 6-0 run to pull within 63-60 on a fast-break layup by Ryan Peterson (So., P, Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS) with 6:03 to go. The next four points were scored by UCSC, but the Bearcats put together a 9-2 run for a 69-69 tie. Roberts opened the run with a 3-pointer, while Eaglismith provided the tying basket on a layup with 1:52 left.
Crain broke the tie with two free throws for the Banana Slugs with 57 seconds remaining. Roberts moved Willamette in front 72-71 with his 3-pointer at the 35-second mark. Gabbard missed a 3-pointer for UCSC with 24 seconds left. Barba sank the first of two free throws for WU with 14 seconds to go for a 73-71 lead. Patrick Ramos missed a 3-point attempt for the Banana Slugs on the game's final shot.
Willamette shot 40.0% for the game (24 of 60) and converted 9 of 27 three-point tries (33.3%). The Bearcats were 16 of 21 (76.2%) at the free throw line. UC Santa Cruz hit 46.2% on field goals (30 of 65), but made only 56 of 21 three-point shots (23.8%). The Banana Slugs sank 6 of 8 free throws. UC Santa Cruz outrebounded Willamette 42-29, but committed 13 turnovers. Willamette lost the ball just six times.
The Bearcats will play University of Northwestern-St. Paul (Minn.) at Cone Field House on Friday, Dec. 28. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Caleb Roberts supplied the go-ahead basket on a 3-point shot
with 35 seconds remaining in the game, as Willamette took a
72-71 lead. Roberts had a strong afternoon for the Bearcats, as
he scored 15 points on five 3-point baskets, to go along with six
rebounds and two assists. Roberts is one of three Bearcats tied
for the team lead in successful 3-pointers this season, joining
Justus Eaglesmith and Alec Barba with 20 three-pointers each.