Kip’s Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #2 for 2006-07

By Kip Ioane

WU Splits Opening Weekend, Preps for Trip to California
The Willamette University men’s Basketball team experienced the highs and lows of a basketball season during its opening weekend in Boise, Idaho. On Friday, Nov. 17, playing in their first game of the young season (and minus the services of point guard Josh Erickson), WU suffered a huge setback, falling 116-77 against the Yotes of Albertson College. However, Willamette bounced back the following night, handing the Mountaineers of Eastern Oregon University their first loss in eight games, winning a thrilling 84-81 contest. The Bearcats will play two critical NCAA West Region games over the Thanksgiving holiday, taking on Claremont College and Pomona-Pitzer in southern California.

Breaking Down The Bearcats
Freshman Danny Nugent had an outstanding debut to his Bearcat career last weekend, highlighted by being named to the Duane Wolfe Memorial Golden Rule Shoot-Out All-Tournament Team. Nugent, from Jesuit HS in Portland, Ore., averaged 21.5 points to go with 6.5 rebounds per game, to pace the Willamette effort both nights. Returning post starter Ian Mansfield chipped in 17 points and 9 rebounds against Eastern Oregon, and fellow frontcourt player Kyler McClary added 18 points against the Mountaineers. Corey Costantino (filling in for Erickson), played 38 of 40 minutes Saturday night. He scored 14 points and handed out five assists. Sophomore Tain Cantrell had an outstanding Friday night, scoring 18 points against Albertson.

Willamette shot close to 60% against Eastern Oregon Saturday night, while holding the previously 7-0 Mountaineers to 42% shooting. However, Willamette did allow Eastern to hang around in the final minutes of the game, as the Bearcats made only 21 of 33 shots from the charity stripe. That statistic will no doubt be a focal point of Coach Gordie James’ preparations this week.

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - Corey Costantino
Backup - Michael Plank

Shooting Guard
Starter - Robbie Andrus
Backup - Michael Smith

Starter - Danny Nugent
Backup - Nick Babij

Starter - Ian Mansfield
Backup - Simon Currie

Starter - Kyler McClary
Backup - Tain Cantrell

Regional Battles
The results from the upcoming weekend could be instrumental in WU’s postseason chances in February. Both Claremont and Pomona-Pitzer are members of the SCIAC conference of California, an NCAA Division III league in the West Region, along with WU and the NWC. Regional results play a major role in deciding at-large berths, seedings, and home court advantage in the NCAA Tournament, and all three teams will be looking for the extra benefit of wins this weekend. Claremont (the defending SCIAC champions) and Pomona-Pitzer share a campus, but have different home gymnasiums.

Familiar Face
Current Pomona assistant coach P.J. McDevitt will find himself in an interesting situation Saturday night, as the Sagehens' coach will be facing his alma mater in Willamette. McDevitt was a member of the WU Class of 2004, and played a key role off the bench on a Willamette team that finished tied with Whitworth for second place in the league. After a year assisting the San Antonio Spurs, McDevitt is entering his second season at Pomona.

Been Here Before
This is Willamette’s second trip in three seasons to play these exact SCIAC foes. WU defeated Claremont, only to lose an overtime battle with Pomona the next night. Last season, WU again ventured to sunny California. This time the Bearcats swept Whittier and Cal Tech on consecutive December evenings. By the end of December, 2006, WU will have played Claremont, Pomona-Pitzer, Cal Tech, Whittier and California Lutheran (on this year’s schedule in late December), as well as participated in the Redlands Tournament, voer the past three years, all in California. An SCIAC team has yet to play the Bearcats in Salem.

Scouting The Opponents
Claremont College is member of the SCIAC and is an NCAA Division III institution. The Stags, lead by Head Coach Ken Scalminini, are coming off a SCIAC championship campaign, and are 2-0 on the young 2006-07 season. The Stags lost SCIAC Player of the Year Miles Taylor to graduation, but return First Team All-League performer Mani Maceira.
Pomona-Pitzer is also a member of the SCIAC and is an NCAA Division III institution. Head Coach Charles Katsiaficas (Coach Kat) brings back a squad that finished 16-9 a year ago, including wins over NCAA Tournament team Occidental and NWC Tournament runner-up Whitworth. The Sagehens defeated Vanguard University, 71-56, in their season opener on Nov. 17. PP has won 10 SCIAC championships since 1986.