Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #5

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats Bounce Back with Sweep of First Home Games of Season
Sometimes, all a struggling team needs is a little home cooking. After opening the season with six consecutive road games, the Willamette University men’s basketball team enjoyed two consecutive home games over the weekend and won both contests, defeating the Cavaliers of Concordia University, 96-93, on Friday, Dec. 8, and downing the Raiders of Southern Oregon University, 66-51, on Saturday, Dec. 9. Willamette improved its record to 3-5 and remained 0-2 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats head into Willamette’s first semester finals week with some positive momentum. WU returns to action on Tuesday, Dec. 19, when the ‘Cats tangle with the NCAA Division II Wolves of Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Ore., at 7 p.m. Following the Western Oregon game, the Bearcats will enjoy a short Holiday Break.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Sophomore Kyler McClary was nominated for Northwest Conference Player of the Week honors, after averaging 15.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game over the weekend. Freshman Dan Nugent exploded for 28 points and 8 rebounds on Friday, while sophomore Michael Smith made 6 of 8 shots on his way to 16 points Saturday afternoon. Senior wing Rob Andrus played a key role off the bench in both games, converting 8 of 11 shots from the field and averaging 10.5 points per game over the homestand.

As a team, WU has moved up to third in the NWC in scoring, averaging 82.8 points per game. The Bearcats also rank second in the conference in both free throw shooting (73.1) and field goal shooting (50.4%). Willamette is also second in average rebounding margin (+4.6) and in blocked shots per game (3.25).

Individually, Nugent is third in the league in scoring (18.6 avg.), sixth in the league in rebounding (6.4 avg.) and first in the NWC in field goal percentage, converting 70.0% of his attempts (56 of 80). Ian Mansfield continues to lead the NWC in rebounding (9.6 avg.) and Andrus has jumped to the top of the NWC in freet throw shooting at 88.9%.

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Michael Plank
Corey Costantino

Shooting Guard
Michael Smith
Robbie Andrus

Wing
Dan Nugent
Nick Babij

Post
Ian Mansfield
Simon Currie

Post
Kyler McClary
Tain Cantrell

Step Up in Competition
Western Oregon University of NCAA Division II represents an obvious step up in competition for the Bearcats, as WU has played NAIA and NCAA Division III opponents so far this season. Willamette has faced an upper level school in each of the past three years, falling to Colorado State University-Pueblo (2005), Northern Arizona University (2004), and Oregon State University (2003).

Bench Mob
A key to Willamette’s success this past weekend was in the stellar play of the Bearcat reserves. Aside from Andrus’ play, Tain Cantrell, Corey Costantino, and Simon Currie all made key contributions in each game over the weekend, answering Willamette’s early season concerns about depth and experience off the bench.

Scouting the Opponent
Western Oregon University is a member of NCAA Division II and competes in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) in most sports. Second-year Head Coach Craig Stanger’s club is 1-4, following Monday’s loss at Oregon State and Wednesday’s loss at Southern Oregon. Jacob Mitchell currently leads the Wolves in scoring with 21 points per game and is followed by former McNary High School standout Ryan Schmidt with about 17 points per game. Western will play two more games between now and their home date with the Bearcats. Willamette and Western last met in the 2002-03 season, in a game won by the Wolves, 61-57.