Willamette's Five Starters Reach Double Figures in Victory over California Lutheran, 85-72

THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF. -- All five Willamette University starters scored in double figures to lead the Bearcats past California Lutheran University, 85-72, in the first round of the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Tournament on Friday, Dec. 29. Willamette upped its overall record to 4-6 on the season, while California Lutheran, which is hosting the tournament, fell to 5-4 overall.

WU will play for the Thrivent Financial championship on Saturday, Dec. 30, at 8 p.m. (PST) against Bethany College (Kansas), which defeated the Milwaukee School of Engineering, 75-69, on Friday. California Lutheran and MSOE will play for third place in the tournament at 6 p.m. (PST).

Dan Nugent (Fr., Wing/Post, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) was Willamette’s top scorer with 22 points. He was 9 of 13 on field goals and also contributed seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and one blocked shot. He has reached double-digit scoring in eight games so far this season, including five games with more than 20 points. Nugent ranks first on the WU scoring chart with 18.2 points per game.

Ian Mansfield (Jr., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Century HS) also provided a solid all-around performance for the Bearcats. He scored 17 points, hauled down 12 rebounds and earned three assists. He was 6 of 11 from the field. Michael Smith (Jr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS) chipped in 14 points, while Mike Plank (Sr., Guard/Wing, Stockton, CA/Franklin HS) added 11 points and Kyler McClary (So., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) tallied 10 points. Plank was 6 for 6 at the line and tied for the team lead with three assists.

Willamette and CLU battled back and fourth for most of the first half. The Bearcats and the Kingsmen were tied five times in the first 14 minutes, and there were 11 lead changes before the game reach intermission. Cal Lutheran tallied the game’s first five points, but then gave up six consecutive points to the Bearcats. Both teams held multiple leads before a layup by Nugent gave the Bearcats the lead for good at 30-29 with 4:35 remaining in the half.

Nugent’s basket started a string of 10 consecutive points for Willamette, as the Bearcats began a 14-3 run that resulted in a 42-32 lead with 38 seconds remaining in the half. The 10-0 opening to the run was fueled by seven points from Nugent, then concluded with a three-pointer by Smith. Nugent’s seven points included the go-ahead layup, plus a 3-pointer and another layup.

A three-pointer by Brandon Tussy with 1:42 left in the half ended the unanswered scoring by Willamette, but the Bearcats responded with a jumper by Mansfield and a three-pointer by Smith to complete the 14-3 run. The Kingsmen cut the lead to 42-35 at halftime, following a 3-pointer by Rocky Pedden with 11 seconds to go.

Cal Lutheran pulled within seven points, 48-41, with 17:28 remaining in the game, when Deshion Innis hit a 3-pointer. Willamette regained a 10-point lead just 16 seconds later, as Nugent scored on a layup, was fouled, and converted the free throw. Smith added two free throws at the 16:40 mark, giving the Bearcats a 53-41 advantage.

WU led by 11 points, 59-48, with 13:15 to go, following a basket by McClary. The Kingsmen then went on a 10-4 run, starting with a 3-pointer by Innis and ending with a 3-pointer by Tussy. In between, CLU also received two baskets from Zach Miller. Tussy’s trifecta cut Willamette’s lead to 63-58 with 10:58 on the clock.

The Bearcats made certain that Cal Lutheran never got closer, as WU recorded the next seven points to increase the margin to 12 points at 70-58. Rob Andrus completed the short run with a 3-pointer at the 8:20 mark. The Kingsmen pulled within 74-66 with 4:47 left, but the Bearcats followed with an 8-0 run, as Willamette took its largest lead of the game.

Cal Lutheran was led in scoring by Miller, who finished the game with 18 points and was 8 of 14 on field goals. He also grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Innis and Andrew Meier each recorded 12 points for the Kingsmen, while Tussy and Pedden contributed 11 points apiece. Innis led all players with 10 assists. Pedden and Meier each grabbed five rebounds.

Willamette shot 50.8% for the game (30 of 59), including 53.1% (17 of 32) in the first half. The Bearcats converted 19 of 20 free throws (95.0%), including 16 of 17 in the final 20 minutes. WU was 6 of 19 (31.6%) on three-pointers.

The Kingsmen hit 28 of 59 field goals (47.5%) on the night, but made just 15 of 35 shots (42.9%) in the second half. CLU also made 11 of 23 three-pointers (47.8%), but connected on just 7 of 18 long-range shots in the second half (38.9%). Cal Lutheran was 5 of 10 at the charity stripe.

The Bearcats were outrebounded by the Kingsmen, 33-30. Willamette offset the rebounding deficit by committing just 10 turnovers, while forcing Cal Lutheran into 16 turnovers. The Bearcats achieved 13 assists to go with nine steals.