McClary Scores 17 Points, Hauls down 11 Boards, as Bearcats Slip Past Linfield, 80-68

SALEM, ORE. -- Sophomore post Kyler McClary (Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while freshman wing Dan Nugent (Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) provided 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four blocked shots, as Willamette University earned a Northwest Conference victory over Linfield College on Saturday, Jan. 13 at Cone Field House. The Bearcats and the Wildcats were tied 62-62 with 6:15 remaining, but Willamette ended the game with an 18-6 run. WU improved to 6-9 overall, 2-4 in the NWC. Linfield dropped to 5-10 on the season, including 0-6 in the conference.

With the score tied at 62-62, Nugent faked out three Linfield defenders, drove down the right baseline and scored on a layup with 5:31 left. Nugent, who was fouled on the play, converted the ensuing free throw to give Willamette a 65-62 lead.

Nearly two minutes later, with the ‘Cats still leading by three points, Josh Erickson (Sr., Point Guard, Keizer, OR/McNary HS) airballed a 3-pointer, but McClary saved the ball from going out of bounds and made a mid-air passed to Ian Mansfield (Jr., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Century HS). Mansfield, who was cutting to the basket, recorded an easy layup that gave the Bearcats a 67-62 advantage at the 3:38 mark.

The five-point swing supplied by Nugent and Mansfield proved to be the difference in the game, as the Bearcats remained in front the rest of the way. The closest Linfield got after Manfield’s layup was within three points at 69-66 with 2:28 to go.

McClary and Nugent were joined in double figures by Willamette teammates Michael Smith (Jr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS), Mansfield and Rob Andrus (Sr., Wing, Chimacum, WA/Chimacum HS). Smith scored 17 points and was 6 of 10 from the field. He hit 3 of 4 three-pointers, including a last-second, 25-footer as the first half ended to give Willamette a 40-37 lead.

Mansfield added 13 points, grabbed seven boards, provided four assists and blocked two shots. Andrus scored 13 points in just 13 minutes of the bench. He was 3 of 3 on field goals and 6 of 7 at the free throw line.

Linfield was led by Jackson Baber, who registered a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Steve Taylor chipped in 11 points for the Wildcats, while Evan Timperly contributed 10 points. Jeremy Goodman and Khaatim Smith each scored eight points, with Goodman also adding four assists and two steals.

Willamette received an emotional boost during the game, with the return of Erickson (Keizer, OR/McNary HS), who had seen playing time in only game earlier this season due to a knee injury. Erickson, the team’s captain, missed the first four games of the year, then started against the University of Puget Sound on Dec. 1. He played just four minutes against the Loggers before re-injuring his knee, then spent more than another month on the injured list.

The Bearcats led by as many as nine points in the first half, as WU held a 27-18 lead following a basket by Andrus with 8:00 on the clock. The Wildcats battled back and eventually took the lead at 35-34 with 3:04
to go.

Twenty seconds later, Nugent made one of two free throws to knot the score. After the teams traded baskets to make it 37-37, the Bearcats failed to take a shot on their next possession, giving Linfield the ball back with 25.4 seconds left.

Linfield’s Jackson Baber was fouled attempting a shot with 4.6 seconds remaining in the half, but missed both free throws. Baber was given a third foul shot when Nugent was called for a line violation on the second attempt. After Baber missed again, Nugent pulled down the rebound, then passed the ball to Smith, who banked in his off-balance, buzzer-beater.

Willamette senior point guard Mike Plank (Stockton, CA/Franklin HS) had five points and one steal in his final appearance in a Bearcat uniform. Plank earned his bachelor’s degree from Willamette in December. His eligibility will end when Willamette’s spring semester begins on Monday (Jan. 15).

Plank, who played basketball for the ‘Cats from 2002-03 through 2004-05, rejoined the team four games into the current season, after Erickson’s knee injury. Plank also played wide receiver on the Willamette football team and earned Second Team All-NWC recognition in 2005 and Honorable Mention All-NWC honors in 2006.

The Bearcats started a five-game homestand with tonight’s game. They will continued the homestand against Whitworth College on Friday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. (PST), before playing Whitman College on Saturday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. (PST). Willamette will complete the home stand with games on Jan. 26 against Puget Sound and on Jan. 27 against Pacific Lutheran University. All five games in the homestand are against Northwest Conference opponents.