Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #4

By Kip Ioane

WU Drops Two in Tacoma; Looks to Home Opener for Turnaround
Ask anyone in the game, and they’ll tell you there are bound to be peaks and valleys in any basketball season. Head Coach Gordie James’ young Bearcats, after a heartbreaking weekend in Tacoma, Wash., are ready for a peak of any kind in the 2006-07 season. WU dropped a 140-137 triple-overtime contest at the University of Puget Sound on Friday, Dec. 1, followed by a 90-84 loss at Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday night, Dec. 2. In addition, team captain Josh Erickson’s season (and possibly career) ended with a knee injury Friday night. The Bearcats look to their home debut on Friday, Dec. 8 against Concordia University (Oregon) and to another game on Saturday afternoon against Southern Oregon University to start the campaign anew.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Freshman wing Dan Nugent earned Honorable Mention Player of the Week honors for his play in Washington over the weekend. Nugent averaged 26.5 points per game over the weekend, and is averaging 18.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the season. He also continues to lead the Northwest Conference in field goal percentage, converting 72.4% of his shots (42 of 58). It was the second Player of the Week nomination for Nugent in his career. He also was nominated for his efforts Nov. 17-18 in his first ever collegiate games.

Willamette leads the NWC in free throw percentage (72.8%) and defensive rebounds (28.7 avg.), while ranking second in field goal percentage (49.6%) and blocked shots (3.50 avg.). The Bearcats still are struggling to take care of the ball, and continue to find themselves in the cellar of the rankings for turnover margin (-8.83 avg.) and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.63).

Junior post Ian Mansfield continues to lead the NWC in rebounding, hauling in 10.2 rebounds per game. He also is scoring 10.7 points per game). Tain Cantrell and Corey Costantino are seventh and tied for eighth in the NWC in free throw percentage, converting 81.3% (13 of 16) and 81.0% (17 of 21) of their attempts, respectively. Senior Robbie Andrus is tied for seventh in the NWC in 3-point shooting, connecting at a 42.9% rate (6 of 14).

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - Michael Plank
Backup - Corey Costantino

Shooting Guard
Starter - Michael Smith
Backup - Robbie Andrus
Starter - Danny Nugent
Backup - Nick Babij
Starter - Ian Mansfield
Backup - Simon Currie
Starter - Kyler McClary
Backup - Tain Cantrell

On His Own Terms
Captain Josh Erickson’s troublesome injury history played out again Friday, as the former McNary High School product injured ligaments in his knee for the third time in three years. Erickson, despite the possibility that his career may be over, took a positive stance after the game, highlighting the character that has made him the team’s leader.

“I had a blast in those four minutes,” Erickson said (detailing the amount of time from the start of the game to his injury) “and I walked off the court…if that was the last time, I did it my way, and I have no regrets.”

Friday’s Classic
Willamette’s performance on Friday at UPS (where the 22nd-ranked Loggers have not lost a conference game in over three seasons and have beaten the Bearcats by an average of 26 points per game) was impressive. The following is a look at Friday’s Classic:

191 - Number of shots taken by the two teams combined
137 - WU’s new record for scoring (old record: 127 vs. Concordia, Dec. 15, 1985)
107- Number of total rebounds by the two teams
94 - Free throws taken by the two teams
49+ -Minutes played by senior point guard Mike Plank, just two weeks removed from football season.
34 - Points on 11-of-15 shooting by WU freshman Dan Nugent
15 - Rebounds hauled in by Ian Mansfield, to go along with 16 points
7 - Bearcats in double figures (Nugent, Mansfield, McClary, Plank, Smith, Costantino, Simon Currie)

Willamette’s last game of three or more overtimes was during the 2000-01 season in a four-overtime 2 point loss to Concordia of Minnesota in the championship game of the Lee Fulmer Redlands tournament in California.

Scouting the Opponents

Concordia University (Oregon) is member of the Cascade Conference and is an NAIA institution. The Cavaliers, led by 13th-year Head Coach Brad Barbarick, are coming off a 17-15 season and are 5-3 on the 2006-07 season. The Cavs return talented wing Alex Hartman, who averaged close to 17 points and 5 rebounds per game a year ago.

Southern Oregon University is also a member of the Cascade Conference and the NAIA. Head Coach Brian McDermott, now in his 11th season, lost NAIA National MVP Shea Washington off last year’s 23-9 team that spent some time at #1 in the nation. The Raiders are currently 7-3 on the year, led by Matt Espinoza’s 14 points per game. Raider Assistant Coach Anthony Levrets is a former assistant at Willamette.