Kip's Corner: IT'S PLAYOFF TIME! WILLAMETTE VISITS WHITWORTH IN NWC SEMIS THURSDAY

After losing what amounted to the NWC regular season championship game Friday night in Tacoma to UPS, Willamette's men's basketball team responded with a hard fought 79-76 victory over 4th place George Fox in Newberg on Saturday.

Behind Jason Luchterhand's 20 point performance (including two free throws with under 5 seconds to go) Willamette defeated George Fox for the 12th straight time, and finished the regular season at 17-7 (13-3) tied for second in the NWC.

WU will head to Spokane for a 7 pm battle with the Whitworth Pirates Thursday night in the NWC semifinals. The winner will advance to play UPS in the NWC title game Saturday night in Tacoma, with an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament on the line.

BREAKING DOWN THE BEARCATS

WU finished the regular season leading the NWC in FG and 3 pt. FG% defense, and allows the fewest points per game in the league (69.3). In addition, WU is 2nd in the league in Defensive Rebounding.

Offensively, WU finished #1 in FG% and #2 from behind the 3-point line, shooting 51% and 40%, respectively. The Bearcats are currently #3 in scoring margin and hand out the most assists in the NWC at almost 17 per game (16.92).

Individually, WU's John Olinger finished 3rd in the NWC in scoring, at 17.8 points per game. In fact, Olinger is ranked in the top 15 in all but two statistical categories including 2nd in free throw percentage (.869), 3rd in steals (2.09 pg), third in assist to turnover ratio (1.83) and 14th in rebounding.

CJ Stuvland averaged 15.0 (7th in the league) and is shooting 44% from 3, while Drew Miller finished 2nd in the NWC in accuracy from behind the arc, hitting 48% of his attempts.

Both Ian Mansfield and Jason Luchterhand ranked amongst the league leaders in rebounding, with Luchterhand shooting at a 61.3% clip.

Freshman David Fife and sophomore Josh Erickson are amongst the league's best in assists.

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART THIS WEEK

PG Drew Miller Josh Erickson
SG John Olinger Robbie Andrus
W CJ Stuvland David Fife
P Ian Mansfield Brennan Garrelts
P Jason Luchterhand Jacob Baran

CONE CRAZIES

Willamette, while playing only 8 home games thus this season, has put over 9,000 Bearcat fans in the stands for those contests. WU finished the regular season with the highest home attendance in the league (almost 1200 per game), and ended at 7-1 in Salem this season. Last Friday's Senior Night was especially packed, as 1700 Bearcat supporters attended the blowout win. This is the 2nd time in 3 years WU has lead the NWC in home attendance.


ALL-NWC

John Olinger and CJ Stuvland were honored by NWC coaches with 1st-Team All-NWC selections for the 2005-2006 season. Olinger (2nd Team a year ago) and Stuvland (HM a year ago) were joined on the 1st team by NWC Player of the Year Lance Pecht (Whitworth), Chase Curtiss and Zach McVey from UPS, and Aaron Schmick from George Fox. UPS Coach Eric Bridgeland was named NWC Coach of the Year.

PLAYOFF PRIMER

Willamette @ Whitworth (NWC Semifinals)

History

- This will be the 3rd match up between the Pirates and the Bearcats in the NWC Tournament this decade. Whitworth, despite losing both games to Willamette during the 2001-2002 NWC season, came to Salem and defeated the Bearcats in the semis, only to lose to Lewis & Clark in the NWC title game. The following season, after splitting the regular season series, Whitworth defeated Willamette in Spokane in the NWC Championship game, despite a 30-point outburst from Bearcat ALL-NWC point guard Ryan Hepp.

- Willamette has not faced UPS in the current format of the NWC Tournament.

- Willamette last won the NWC Tournament during the 1999-2000 season. After upsetting #1 seed Lewis and Clark in Portland, the #4 seed Bearcats defeated #3 Linfield in McMinnville behind a double-double performance from All-NWC post Jason Downey. That edition of Bearcat Hoop was denied an NCAA tournament bid the following day, however, as the NWC did not have an automatic qualifier into the NCAA's at that point in time.

- Current Bearcats Drew Miller and Brennan Garrelts each saw action in the 2003 title game @ Whitworth.

Season

- 1/6/06 @ Spokane (Whitworth 80, Willamette 58)
Overcoming an early 13 point deficit, the Pirates used a strong second half to defeat the Bearcats in early January. CJ Stuvland led WU with 17 points, and Lance Pecht scored 21 for the Pirates. Willamette, which enjoyed the lead for 17 minutes in the first half, went cold against the Pirate defense, and suffered their first D3 loss of the season.
- 2/3/06 @ Salem (Whitworth 76, Willamette 61)
Leading for most of the game, Whitworth held off two big Willamette rallies, and swept the season series for the Bearcats for the 2nd straight year. Pecht posted a double-double (19, 14) and Willamette shot 5-30 from the 3-pt. line en route to their only home defeat of the 2005-2006 season.

- Whitworth has now won the past 5 meetings between the two schools, including 3 in a row in Salem.

NOTES

- A road team has won the NWC Tournament (since the league's move to DIII) twice. The history of the tournament is below:

2000-Willamette 77, @ Linfield 70
2001-Lewis and Clark 101, @ Linfield 88
2002-@Lewis and Clark 101, Whitworth 86
2003-@Whitworth 77, Willamette 64
2004-2005- The NWC did not have a Post Season tournament