Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #3 for 2006-07

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats are Swept in California; Look to Rebound in Washington
The Willamette University men’s basketball team will be looking for a swing in momentum this weekend in Tacoma, Wash., as the Bearcats open Northwest Conference play on the road on Friday, Dec. 1, against three-time defending champion the University of Puget Sound followed by another NWC game on Saturday, Dec. 2, against Pacific Lutheran University. Willamette is coming off a disappointing trip to California, where Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer defeated the Bearcats, dropping Head Coach Gordie James’ club to 1-3 on the season.
Breaking Down the Bearcats

Junior post Ian Mansfield earned Honorable Mention Player of the Week honors for his play in Southern California over the weekend. Mansfield averaged 10 points and 12 rebounds, pacing the Bearcat effort in each game. It was the first Player of the Week nomination for Mansfield during his Willamette career.

It doesn’t take much of a statistical breakdown to see where WU is struggling. In the NWC, Willamette is at the bottom of the rankings in both turnover margin and assist-to-turnover ratio, as the Bearcats have struggled to take care of the ball with their assortment of different lineups and new personnel. In addition, Willamette is last in points per game and last in scoring margin.

Freshman Danny Nugent, on the positive side, is 12th in the league in scoring at 15.0 points per game. Mansfield leads the league in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game, while sophomore point guard Corey Costantino is eight in the league with 4.0 assists per game. Finally, sophomore post Tain Cantrell is seventh in the NWC in free throw shooting, after converting 83% of his attempts so far this season.

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - Corey Costantino
Backup - Mike 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

Look Who’s Back
A close look at box scores from the weekend reveals a familiar name to Bearcat fans, as standout football wide receiver Mike Plank logged significant minutes off the bench over the weekend. Plank, an All-Conference performer (Second Team in 2005; H.M. in 2006) for Head Coach Mark Speckman on the gridiron, played for Bearcat Hoop during the 2003-2005 seasons. His return to hoops coincided with the recent injury to Josh Erickson, as the Bearcats searched for more depth at the point guard position.

House of Horrors
Willamette’s trip to UPS on Friday will be an adventure into hostile territory for the ‘Cats, as their last three trips to Loggerland have ended very badly. WU lost the past three games (two amounted to NWC regular season championship games) by an average of 26 points. Willamette’s last victory over UPS in Tacoma occurred on January 31, 2003 in a 61-58 Bearcat win). On the other hand, WU has lost to UPS just once in Salem during the past 10 seasons.

Scouting the Opponents

University of Puget Sound is member of the NWC and competes in NCAA Division III. The Loggers, led by first-year Head Coach Justin Lunt, are coming off their third consecutive NWC championship campaign, and are 3-1 on the 2006-07 season. The Loggers return an All-NWC Honorable Mention point guard in Antwan Williams and also return Jason Foster and Robert Kraul.

Pacific Lutheran University is also a member of the NWC and NCAA Division III. First-year Head Coach Steve Dickerson inherits a team that finished 5-20 a year ago. The Lutes are currently 2-0 on the young campaign.

Up Next for Willamette
The Bearcats will play their first home games of the season on Friday, Dec. 8 and Saturday, Dec. 9. On Friday, Willamette will take on Concordia University from Portland, Ore., with game time set for 7:30 p.m. at Cone Field House. On Saturday, the Bearcats will battle Southern Oregon University, starting at 3 p.m. Last year, Willamette went 7-1 at home.