Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #8

By Kip Ioane

Willamette Downs Wildcats; Bearcats Prepare for #10 Whitworth
Using the momentum from the return of captain Josh Erickson, as well as the emotion of Mike Plank’s final game, Willamette University defeated rival Linfield College, 80-68, on Saturday, Jan. 13 at Cone Field House. The win snapped a two-game losing streak that included a 20-point loss at George Fox University, 72-52, on Friday, Jan. 12. The Bearcats currently stand at 6-9 overall, 2-4 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette hosts 10th-ranked Whitworth College on Friday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m., followed a contest against the Missionaries of Whitman College on Saturday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Junior wing Michael Smith earned Honorable Mention NWC Player of the Week honors for his efforts over the weekend. Smith scored a total of 30 points in the two games, including 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Linfield on Saturday.

Kyler McClary also helped the Bearcats on Saturday with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Dan Nugent recorded an excellent all-around game against Linfield, as he scored 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked four shots.

As a team, the Bearcats rank first in the NWC in free throw percentage (73.5%) and are third in field goal percentage, after hitting on 47.0% of their shots. Willamette is also first in the conference in blocked shots (3.9 avg.) and fourth in assists (15.1 avg).

Individually, Dan Nugent is tied for 12th in the league in scoring, with 14.8 points per game. He also is tied for 12th in the league in rebounding, with 5.5 boards per night. He leads the NWC in blocked shots (1.53 avg.) and is fourth in field goal percentage, converting 59.4% of his attempts (85 of 143). Junior Ian Mansfield is third in the NWC in rebounding at 8.3 boards per contest, while senior Rob Andrus is fourth in the conference in free throw percentage at 83.0% (39 of 47). In addition, Michael Smith is second in the NWC in 3-point shooting, as he has connected on 45.8% of his attempts (22 of 48) from behind the arc.

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - C.J. Stuvland
Backup - Corey Costantino

Shooting Guard
Starter - Michael Smith
Backup - Rob Andrus

Starter - Dan Nugent
Backup - Corey Costantino

Starter - Ian Mansfield
Backup - Simon Currie

Starter - Kyler McClary
Backup - Simon Currie

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Bearcats’ roster has been an ever-changing situation all season. Willamette has used five different starting lineups, and has dealt with the absence of the projected backcourt of Josh Erickson and C.J. Stuvland (who missed last week with an injured ankle) for the entire season. Stuvland will be back Friday night, but Erickson, who played 22 minutes Saturday night, re-aggravated his knee injury with 57 seconds to play against Linfield, and will not play again this year. In addition, Mike Plank graduated in December and has exhausted his eligibility now that classes have resumed. Sophomore center Tain Cantrell, who started Friday at George Fox, has been lost for at least a week while recovering from a blood condition. Needless to say, Willamette’s training staff has gotten to know this year’s edition of Bearcat Hoop quite well.

Scouting Friday’s Opponent
Bearcats vs. Pirates: The Rivalry Resumes

While Head Coach Gordie James would be the first to say “Every game is a big game in the NWC,” the twice-yearly battles with Whitworth College tend to be calendar-circling events on the Bearcat schedule year in and year out. Since the arrival of Coach Jim Hayford for the 2001-02 season, the Pirates have been a yearly contender for the NWC crown, and a constant thorn to the Bearcats in their own quest for the conference title.

The two teams have met in the NWC Tournament three times during the past five seasons, with the Pirates coming out victorious in all three contests (including last season’s 69-66 NWC semifinal victory). Willamette enjoyed victory in three of the first four meetings between the schools, but recent history shows the Pirates winning six out of the last seven contests (including three victories a year ago). Whitworth has been ranked in the Top 10 of NCAA Division III for most of the past month. The Pirates lost last Friday to the University of Puget Sound, but defeated Whitman College on Tuesday of this week to move one-half game into first place in the NWC at 6-1.

Scouting Saturday’s Opponent
Bearcats vs. Missionaries: NWC Battle

Whitman College is an NCAA Division III member that competes in the Northwest Conference. Head Coach Skip Molitor’s club is 5-11 on the season, including 1-6 in the NWC. The Missionaries are led statistically by Kyle Born, who averages 20.3 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. An explosive player, Born erupted earlier in the year for 53 points in a loss at the University of Redlands (Calif.). Willamette swept two games from Whitman a year ago. Saturday’s tussle with the Missionaries is scheduled for an early 6 p.m. tip-off.