Wolves rally to edge Bearcats, 61-57

MONMOUTH –Willamette rode its defense to a near upset win against Western Oregon, but their offense failed them down the stretch as the Wolves etched out a 61-57 victory on Saturday night at the Physical Education Building.

The loss was the first on the season for the NCAA Division III Bearcats (5-1), while the Division II Wolves improved to 5-2.

Willamette led by as many 16 points in the first half, but didn't score a field goal in the final five and a half minutes of the game. During the final eight minutes of the game, the Wolves outscored the Bearcats 18-4.

Willamette blew out to an early lead, hitting nine of their first 14 shots (64 percent) in rolling to a 21-9 lead through the first 11 minutes of play. Meanwhile, the Wolves converted only four of their first 13 shots and turned the ball over five times in the first ten minutes. They never led before the break, despite closing the gap to seven on back-to-back three-pointers by Sean Kelly (26-19).

The Bearcats increased their lead to 16 points on a Harold Sublett basket with 2:20 left before the break (37-21). Their halftime margin was 39-25, as the visitors shot 63 percent from the floor before intermission.

While the Bearcats cooled slightly after the break, they kept the defensive pressure on their hosts and still led with 11 minutes to play, 48-37. Robert Day closed the gap to 50-43 with three straight treys, and the Wolves pulled to within six points with 6:45 to go on a pair of free throws by Kelly (55-49).

The lead was cut to three on a trio of free throws by Jahmez Dixon (57-54) with 5:08 left and a put-back basket by Kevin Broderick-Kartye (his first of the game) pulled WOU to within one point with 4:15 remaining.

The Wolves took their first lead since early (7-4) on another pair of Kelly free throws with 3:17 left (58-57). The Bearcats missed three straight free throw attempts and turned the ball over twice during that stretch helping the Wolves climb into the lead.

Day finished with 24 points and Kelly added 22 for the Wolves as the Bearcats held WOU to its lowest point total of the season. The Bearcats shot just 35 percent in the second half. Marques Johnson led WU with 16 points, Miles Sandgathe had 13, Ryan Hepp 12 and Sublett had 10.