Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #11

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats Drop Out of Playoff Race; Look to End Season on Upswing
After falling 69-60 at Pacific University on Friday, Feb. 2 and 60-55 at Lewis and Clark College on Saturday, Feb. 3, the Willamette University men’s basketball team finds itself 9-12 overall (5-7 in the Northwest Conference) and out of the race for the NWC Tournament. Head Coach Gordie James and the Bearcats will be looking to build momentum in the last four games of the campaign, starting with the final home game of the season Friday night (Feb. 9) against the Bruins of George Fox University. Friday’s game will mark the final home appearance of seniors C.J. Stuvland and Rob Andrus. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. (PST).

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Freshman wing Dan Nugent was nominated for NWC Player of the Week honors for the fourth time this season for his efforts over the weekend. Nugent scored 35 points in two games, including 24 points and a 10-of-14 shooting night against Pacific. He added 11 points against Lewis & Clark. Nugent has scored in double figures in 15 games this season, including each of the past seven contests.

Senior Rob Andrus had a huge game against Lewis and Clark, as he came off the bench to single-handedly keep the Bearcats within striking distance of the Pioneers. Andrus scored 20 points and pulled down 4 offensive rebounds, continuing his stellar play this season.

As a team, the Bearcats rank first in the NWC in free throws at 74.4% (363 of 488) and are second in field goal percentage at 47.7% (558 of 1169). Willamette leads the conference in blocked shots with 3.8 per game (79 total) and is third in the league in assists with 14.6 per game (307 total).

Individually, Nugent is fifth in the NWC in scoring with 16.1 points per game. He also ranks 12th in the conference in rebounding with 5.4 rebounds per game, is second in blocked shots with 1.6 per game and is fourth in field goal shooting at 59.8% (125 of 209). Ian Mansfield is third in the NWC in rebounding with 7.4 boards per game, while Andrus is ranked eighth in free throws at 79.7% (59 of 74). Also for the Bearcats, Michael Smith holds seventh place on the conference 3-point shooting list after connecting on 40.3% of his attempts from behind the arc (29 of 72).

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - C.J. Stuvland
Back-up - Corey Costantino

Shooting Guard
Starter - Michael Smith
Back-up - Rob Andrus

Wing
Starter - Dan Nugent
Back-up - Corey Costantino

Post
Starter - Ian Mansfield
Back-up - Simon Currie

Post
Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Tain Cantrell

Bearcats Hope to Finish in Top Half of Nine-Team NWC
In all likelihood, WU will finish the season in no better than fourth place in the NWC. Willamette last finished fourth in the NWC during the 1999-00 season, but won the 2000 NWC Tournament title. The Bearcats took fifth place in the NWC in 2000-01, then went on a streak of three consecutive runner-up finishes. Willamette claimed fifth place in 2004-05, before tying for second place last season. Coach James and the Bearcats last claimed an outright NWC regular season title during the 1994-95 season.

Senior Night Success
Senior Night at Cone Field House is an emotional evening for everyone associated with Bearcat Hoop. While it is difficult to see a senior class play its final game in front of the home crowd, the game itself has been a winning event for the program during four of the past five seasons. Only the 2004-05 squad experienced a loss on Senior Night, with the Bearcats falling to Linfield College, 76-70 on Feb. 15, 2005.

One of the most memorable Senior Nights also ended in a loss on Feb. 16, 2001, when Pacific Lutheran University defeated Willamette, 100-99, on a half-court buzzer-beater in the second overtime. Last year on Senior Night, the Bearcats defeated Pacific, 91-56, on Feb. 10, 2006.

Scouting the Opponents
George Fox University is a member of the Northwest Conference and participates in NCAA Division III. Head Coach Mark Sundquist has guided the Bruins to an 11-10 record this season, including 6-6 in the NWC. The Bruins are led statistically by Chris Parker’s 16.0 points per game, followed closely by 13.8 points per game each from Phillip Heu-Weller and Brent Satern. George Fox defeated the Bearcats, 72-52, earlier in the season on Jan. 12 in Newberg, Ore., snapping Willamette’s 11-game winning streak in the series. In the loss at GFU, Willamette shot just 30.8% in the first half (8 of 26) and trailed 33-20 at halftime.

Linfield College is also a member of the NWC and NCAA Division III. Heading into a game on Friday, Feb. 9 against Lewis & Clark, the Wildcats of long-time Head Coach Larry Doty are 7-14 overall, including 2-10 in the NWC. Linfield lost to Whitman College, 90-87, on a buzzer-beater last Saturday (Feb. 3). The Wildcats are currently paced by transfer Evan Temperly, who is averaging 16.0 points per game. No other Wildcat has averaged in double figures, although Emil Kim has provided Linfield with 9.8 points per game. Willamette defeated the Wildcats, 80-68, in Salem, Ore. on Jan. 13.