Bearcats Maintain Hold on First Place With Win Over Linfield

McMINNVILLE, Ore. — Willamette kept ahold of a tie for first place in Northwest Conference men’s basketball Saturday night, beating Linfield 87-62 at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.

Willamette improved to 12-2 in the conference, tied with Puget Sound for first place with two games left, and 16-6 overall. The Bearcats play UPS next Friday night on the road.

Linfield, which has lost eight of its last nine, fell to 3-11 and 6-17.

CJ Stuvland led Willamette with 18, including 4 of 6 three-point attempts. Drew Miller added 14 and John Olinger, leading scorer in the conference with an 18.5 average before Saturday, scored just 10, including 2 of 8 field-goal shooting.

Willamette, already leading the conference in field goal accuracy, boosted their percentage by making 30 of 52 for 57.7 percent.

Willamette broke an 11-11 tie on C.J. Stuvland’s three-pointer 6:56 into the game and outscored Linfield 23-4 over the next 10 minutes to take a 34-15 lead. It was 37-22 at halftime.

Joe Wells (Sr., Salem, Ore.) made a three-point play to draw Linfield to 42-31 3:03 into the second half, but the Wildcats never got closer than 11.

Willamette’s lead reached 19 several times in the final minutes and the Bearcats pushed out to their final margin of 25 in the last minute as reserve Michael Smith swished two straight three-pointers.

Willamette’s superiority was probably defined most clearly by three-point shooting. The Bearcats made 9 of 19 to Linfield’s 2 of 9.

In team statistics, Willamette led the conference in field-goal shooting at 50.1 percent and in three-point shooting at 40.3 percent. The Bearcats were tied for first in defense, allowing 68.8 points per game, first in field-goal defense (opponents shooting 43.3 percent) and first in three-point goal defense (31.4).

Willamette defeated Linfield 78-62 in Salem on Jan. 14.