Kip's Corner: WILLAMETTE NEEDS TWO WINS FOR NWC TITLE; Bearcats Travel to UPS Friday Night

Buoyed by the performance of its senior class, Willamette blew past Pacific University (91-56) and Linfield College (87-62), moving the Bearcats to 16-6 on the season, and tied for first place in the NWC with the University of Puget Sound.

John Olinger (performing on Senior Night at Cone Field House) scored WU's first 15 points of the 2nd half, en route to 24 for the game, to spark the Pacific victory.

The next night CJ Stuvland poured in 18 points in McMinnville to help defeat the rival Wildcats. WU will take to the road for the final weekend of the season, visiting UPS on Friday and George Fox on Saturday.

BREAKING DOWN THE BEARCATS
WU leads the NWC in FG and 3 pt. FG% defense, and allows the fewest points per game in the league (67.9). In addition, WU is 2nd in the league in Defensive Rebounding.

Offensively, WU is #1 in FG% and #1 from behind the 3-point line, shooting 51% and 41%, respectively. The Bearcats are currently #3 in scoring margin and hand out the most assists in the NWC at 17.14 apg.

Individually, WU's John Olinger is 2nd in the NWC in scoring, at 18.3 points per game. In fact, Olinger is ranked in the top 15 in all but two statistical categories including 2nd in free throw percentage (.876), 3rd in steals (2.09 pg), third in assist to turnover ratio (1.83) and 14th in rebounding.

CJ Stuvland averages 16.0 (5th in the league) and is shooting 44% from 3, while Drew Miller leads the NWC in accuracy from behind the arc, hitting 50% of his attempts.

Both Ian Mansfield and Jason Luchterhand rank amongst the league leaders in rebounding, with Luchterhand shooting at a 62.3% 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

SENIOR NIGHT TO REMEMBER
During Willamette's final home regular season game against Pacific, WU's graduating seniors put on a show. John Olinger poured in 24 points, Brennan Garrelts added 10 on 5-5 shooting, Jason Luchterhand and Drew Miller combined for 15, and Jacob Baran started a Bearcat run with a rebound, assist and a finished lay-up. Willamette lead by as many as 38 points, and cruised to their 15th win.

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 leads the league in home attendance (almost 1200 per game), and is 7-1 in Salem this season. Friday's Senior Night was especially packed, as 1700 Bearcat supporters attended the blowout win. WU's chances at a post season home game hang in the balance this weekend.

TITLE CHASE
At 16-6 (12-2) and 14-2 in the NCAA DIII West Region, Willamette has enjoyed an amazing season. The Bearcats quest for the NWC title comes down to this weekend's games, as WU will take on UPS and George Fox on the road. The NWC standings currently:

WU 12-2 16-6
UPS 12-2 18-4
Whitworth 11-3 17-6

All 3 teams have clinched a spot in the NWC tournament, but the seeding and home court for those semifinal and championship games have yet to be determined. With two wins, the Bearcats will be the NWC champions, and host the NWC tournament championship game on February 25th in Cone Fieldhouse. A breakdown of the Bearcats post season scenarios is below:

Win @UPS and @Fox
Willamette is NWC regular season champion and would host winner of UPS @Whitworth in NWC title game 2/25.

Lose @UPS and win @Fox (with Whitworth finishing 13-3, UPS 14-2)
Willamette would fall to 3rd in the league, and be at Whitworth on 2/23 in the NWC semis, with the winner advancing to the play the Loggers in Tacoma on 2/25)

Win @UPS and lose @Fox (with Whitworth finishing 13-3, UPS 13-3)
Willamette would be 2-2 against Whitw/UPS, Whitworth would be 3-1 in same games, and UPS would be 1-3, assuming past tiebreakers would be put into place, Whitworth would win the NWC, WU would finish 2nd (based on their season sweep of UPS) and host the Loggers in Cone Fieldhouse in the semifinals on 2/23, with the winner playing the Pirates in Spokane on 2/25.

Lose @UPS and lose @Fox (with Whitworth finishing 13-3 and UPS 14-2)
Willamette would finish 3rd, and be in Spokane for a semifinal game with the Pirates on 2/23, with the winner advancing to Tacoma on 2/25.

Whitworth concludes its season with games @Whitman and @Pacific, while UPS hosts Linfield the night after Willamette. A loss by the Pirates (currently riding an 8 game winning streak) in either game would in all likelihood drop them to 3rd place.

WILLAMETTE @UPS:
In the biggest game of the season, the Bearcats will hit the road to battle the Loggers in Tacoma. Willamette is currently ranked #6 in the NCAA West Region, while UPS sits at #2. WU rode hot shooting and some timely baskets to a January victory over the Loggers (77-68) in Salem. UPS has defeated Willamette 2 straight times in Tacoma, by an average of 20+ points.

WILLAMETTE @GEORGE FOX:
Willamette's regular season will come to an end in Newberg, battling the dangerous Bruins on their home floor. WU rode a second half surge to an 86-77 victory over Fox earlier in the season, and has not lost in Newberg since 2001.


NATIONAL EXPOSURE:
Willamette gained some national exposure last month, appearing in D3hoops.com's "Around the Nation" column Friday. Click on the following link to read the article:

http://www.d3hoops.com/nation/