Kip's Corner: WILLAMETTE ALL ALONE IN 2ND; SHOWDOWN WITH LOGGERS FRIDAY AT HOME

Willamette University's men's basketball team rode a weekend sweep of Pacific University and Linfield College into sole possession of second place in the Northwest Conference.

The Bearcats (9-5, 5-1) outlasted a valiant effort by the Boxers of Pacific Friday, placing 4 players in double figures, and eventually prevailing 73-69.

WU then handled rival Linfield in just its 2nd home game of the season Saturday night, turning a strong second half into a 78-62 victory.

Both victories, coupled with Whitworth and George Fox’s being swept over the week, leave the Bearcats all alone in second place.

First place and nationally-ranked #7 UPS invades Cone Fieldhouse Friday night, with equally dangerous George Fox visiting Salem on Saturday.

BREAKING DOWN THE BEARCATS
Willamette enters its most challenging weekend of the season leading the league in field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense, and ranking second in points allowed, and rebounding margin.

Offensively, WU is #1 in FG% and #1 from behind the 3-point line. The Bearcats are currently #2 in scoring margin and assists.

Individually, WU’s John Olinger leads the NWC in scoring, tied with Whitman’s Matt Kelly at 19.4 points per game. In fact, Olinger is ranked in the top 15 in all but two statistical categories including 1st in free throw percentage (.866), 2nd in steals (2.29 pg), third in assist to turnover ratio (1.88) and 14th in rebounding.

CJ Stuvland averages 14.0 ppg and is averaging 2 made 3’s a game. Drew Miller leads the NWC in accuracy from behind the arc, hitting 55% of his attempts, while Ian Mansfield and Jason Luchterhand both rank in the top 10 in rebounding.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART THIS WEEK

PG Drew Miller Josh Erickson
SG John Olinger Robbie Andrus
W CJ Stuvland David Fife
P Ian Mansfield Jacob Baran
P Brennan Garrelts Kyler McClary
(*Starting post Jason Luchterhand missed both games last week, and his status is
uncertain for this weekend’s contests)

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
John Olinger was named NWC Player of the Week after shooting 57% from the field, 45% from 3-point range and 91% from the foul line as the Bearcats moved to 5-1 in conference, 9-5 overall, with wins at Pacific and versus Linfield.
Josh Erickson had 8 assists against Pacific.
David Fife had 13 points and 4 blocks against Linfield.
CJ Stuvland scored 14 points against Linfield.
Ian Mansfield scored 22 points in 2 games.
Drew Miller scored 15 points against Pacific.

HUGE WEEKEND
This weekend’s schedule is one of the most difficult of the year for Willamette, but has the bonus of being played in the friendly confines of Cone Fieldhouse. The Bearcats host two-time defending league champion UPS on Friday night, with playoff contender George Fox following up on Saturday. The following is a look at the two opponents:

UPS is currently 12-2 (6-0) on the season, and has been ranked in the Top 10 nationally all season long. Coach Eric Bridgeland has built a powerhouse in Tacoma, leading the Loggers to back-to-back titles in the NWC, and a Sweet 16 berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Loggers up tempo, all-out style of play has taken the NWC by storm, as they have gone 30-2 in their last two seasons of conference play. This current edition of Loggers is lead by All-NWC picks Chase Curtiss and Zach McVey, and employs a young cast of 10 players who all see significant playing time. UPS swept the Bearcats a year ago, but has just 1 victory in their last 8 trips to Cone Fieldhouse.

GEORGE FOX is currently 10-5 (3-3) and in 3rd place in the NWC. The Bruins, runners-up a year ago, have struggled of late, losing 3 out of their last 4 games. Coach Mark Sundquist’s club is being paced on the year by senior Aaron Schmick, and junior Phillip Heu-Weller. Fox employs a four guard starting line-up, and while not as up-tempo as UPS, will nonetheless put points on the board. Willamette swept George Fox a year ago.