Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #9

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats are 2-1 in Five-Game Homestand; Set to Host Another Top 25 Foe
Coming off an 89-80 win against Whitman College on Saturday, Jan. 20, the Willamette University men’s basketball team looks to string together back-to-back wins for the first time since early December, as the Bearcats host a pair of Northwest Conference opponents this weekend at Cone Field House. Last week, WU split two games, falling to 10th ranked Whitworth College, 79-66, on Friday, Jan. 19, before defeating Whitman the following night. The Bearcats are 7-10 overall, 3-5 in the NWC, and remain two games out of the third and final spot in the NWC Tournament. After hosting a nationally-ranked team in Whitworth last Friday, Willamette hosts another nationally-ranked NWC foe, as #13 the University of Puget Sound visits Salem on Friday, Jan. 26. The Bearcats will follow up with a Saturday night (Jan. 27) game with Pacific Lutheran University. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. (PST) each evening.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Freshman wing/post Dan Nugent was nominated for NWC Player of the Week honors for the third time this season, after solid games against Whitworth and Whitman. Nugent poured in 50 points over the weekend, including a 33-point effort against Whitman, highlighted by a 15-of-17 performance at the free throw line. He also earned seven rebounds, six blocked shots and six steals in Willamette’s two games. Nugent shot 57.7% (15 of 26) during the week.

Kyler McClary, Ian Mansfield and Michael Smith all enjoyed solid weekends, evidenced by their Saturday performances against the Missionaries. McClary posted a double-double, his third of the season, with 10 points and 10 rebounds). Mansfield added 16 points and 9 rebounds, while Smith dropped in 19 points, scoring in double figures for the 12th time in the past 13 games.

As a team, the Bearcats rank first in the NWC in free throw percentage (75.1%, 286 of 381) and are third in the conference in field goal percentage. Willamette has hit 47.2% of its shots from the field (447 of 948). WU leads the NWC in blocked shots with 70 (4.1 avg.) and ranks third in assists with 14.8 per game.

Individually, Nugent is eight in the league in scoring with 16.0 points per game. He also leads all NWC players in blocked shots (1.7 avg.) and is fourth in the conference in field goal percentage (59.2%, 100 of 169). He is 15th in the NWC in rebounding with 5.2 boards per game. Junior post Ian Mansfield ranks third on the NWC rebounding chart with 8.0 rebounds per game. Senior wing Rob Andrus is second in the NWC in free throw shooting at 85.2% (46 of 54). In addition, Michael Smith is the top 3-point shooter in the conference, connecting on 45.0% of his attempts from behind the arc (27 of 60).

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 - Tain Cantrell

A Classic Rematch
In the first game of the NWC season, Willamette and UPS engaged in a classic battle, with the Loggers prevailing 140-137 in three overtimes. The game marked another quality game between the two schools, with the Bearcats and Loggers having met in what amounted to the regular season championship game during February of two of the past three seasons. Willamette has defeated the three-time conference champions in two of the past three meetings at Cone Field House, where UPS has lost a total of eight out of the past 10 contests between the two schools. The Loggers, however, have enjoyed a four-game winning streak in Tacoma versus Willamette, with the most recent game being the only one decided by fewer than 10 points.

The Dec. 1, 2006 meeting between the Bearcats and the Loggers featured some impressive numbers. Dan Nugent scored a career-high 34 points for the Bearcats, including 27 points in regulation. Robert Krauel tallied 28 points to lead Puget Sound. The teams combined for 94 field goals on a 191 attempts and made 74 free throws in 94 trips to the line. There were 42 assists, 73 turnovers, 11 blocked shots and 27 steals. The fast-paced contest was tied 108-108 at the end of regulation.

Get Your Suitcases Ready
While Willamette has certainly enjoyed the comforts of home over the past three games, following this weekend’s pair of contests, the Bearcats will be on the road for almost the duration of the season. The Bearcats finish with five of their final six games on the road, with the lone exception being a home date for Senior Night on Friday, Feb. 9. The Bearcats are 5-2 at Cone Field House this season.

Scouting the Opponents

The University of Puget Sound is a member of the Northwest Conference 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 14-2 on the season (7-1 in the NWC) in 2006-07. UPS returns Honorable Mention All-NWC point guard Antwan Williams, along with experienced players Jason Foster and Robert Krauel. Foster leads the Loggers with 18.0 points per game, while Williams, averaging 13.2 points and 5.2 assists, and Krauel, with 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, also are major contributors.

Pacific Lutheran University also competes in the NWC and NCAA Division III. First-year Head Coach Steve Dickerson inherited a team that finished 5-20 a year ago. The Lutes are currently 7-8 on the campaign (4-4 in the NWC), including an early-season victory over the Bearcats, 90-84, in Tacoma. PLU has been led by the trio of Josh Dressler (18.0 points per game), Jared Brandeberry (13.2 points and 5.7 rebounds per game) and Josh Vanlandingham (13.0 points per game). The Lutes have not won in Salem since a half-court shot at the buzzer by then post Neil Mendez downed the Bearcats, 100-99, in two overtimes, on Feb. 16, 2001.