Kip's Corner: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #12

By Kip Ioane

Willamette Splits Weekend; Heads to Washington to End Season
Continuing its maddening up and down ways, the 2006-07 edition of Willamette University men’s basketball split a pair of Northwest Conference games over the weekend, downing George Fox University 84-79 on Friday, Feb. 9, only to fall to Linfield College 83-80 on Saturday, Feb.10. Seniors Rob Andrus and C.J. Stuvland combined to score 45 points in their final home game on Friday, as Andrus scored a career-high 27 points and Stuvland chipped in 18 points.

Andrus tied a Willamette record with a 12-for-12 performance at the free throw line against GFU. Freshman Dan Nugent led the team with 16 points at Linfield. Willamette, 10-13 overall and 6-8 in the NWC, will close its campaign with a game at league-leading Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash., on Friday, Feb. 16, followed by a Saturday, Feb. 17 contest at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Andrus, a senior wing, was nominated for NWC Player of the Week for the first time after his solid play over the weekend. He started both games and scored a total of 39 points for 19.5 points per game, including his career-high 27-point performance in the Senior Night victory over George Fox.

Sophomore Simon Currie scored 11 points off the bench Saturday night in McMinnville. Fellow sophomore Kyler McClary scored 14 points for the Bearcats in Salem on Friday.

As a team, the Willamette ranks first in the NWC in free throw percentage at 75.4% and is second in the conference in field goal percentage at 48.0%. The Bearcats also lead the NWC in blocked shots (81, 3.5 per game) and are fourth in assists (334, 14.5 per game).

Individually, Dan Nugent is tied for fifth in the league in scoring, with 16.0 points per game. He also ranks second in the NWC in blocked shots (36, 1.57 per game), is fourth in field goals percentage at 59.0% (135 of 229) and is 11th in rebounding (5.4 per game). Ian Mansfield ranks third in the NWC in rebounding, with 7.5 boards per game, while Andrus is third in the NWC in free throw percentage at 83.0% (73 of 88).

Projected Depth Chart this Week

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

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

Starter - Dan Nugent
Back-up - Corey Costantino

Starter - Ian Mansfield
Back-up - Simon Currie

Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Tain Cantrell

Daunting Double Dip Road Trip
Willamette faces a difficult road trip to close out the season, as WU will travel over the weekend to Spokane, Wash., to play Whitworth College, and to Walla Walla, Wash., to play Whitman College. Willamette has not emerged with a sweep of the trip since Ryan Hepp and Marques Johnson led the team in 2001-02. That edition of Bearcat Hoop finished 18-8 overall and 12-4 in the NWC before losing at home to Whitworth in the first round of the NWC Tournament.

Playing the Spoiler
While the Bearcats have been eliminated from the race for the NWC Tournament, Whitworth is firmly entrenched in the postseason. However, a Bearcat upset of the Pirates would not only end a long losing streak to Whitworth (7 games), but also would likely drop the Pirates into a tie with Lewis and Clark College and UPS in the NWC standings. All three of those teams have clinched a berth in the NWC Tournament, but the final seedings are yet to be determined.

Scouting the Opponents
Whitworth College is a member of the NWC and is an NCAA Division III institution. Head Coach Jim Hayford’s club is 21-3 on the season, 12-3 and in first place in the NWC. Point guard Bryan Williams leads the Pirate attack, scoring 11.2 points per game and dishing out 7.4 assists per game (third in the nation). Wing player James Jones has returned from an injury and is leading the team with 16.6 points per game, while Ryan Symes adds 15.1 points per game. The Pirates defeated the Bearcats 79-66 in Salem, Ore., on Jan.19.

Whitman College also competes in the NWC and NCAA Division III. Long-time Head Coach Skip Molitor has seen the Missionaries go 8-16 this year, including 4-11 in the NWC. On Feb. 10, Whitman snapped the four-year NWC home court winning streak of defending conference champion the University of Puget Sound, 106-99. Kyle Born has averaged a league-high 19.2 points per game to gow ith 11.1 rebounds per contest. Wing Chris Faidley is a deadly outside shooter, who drops in 17.0 points per game. The Bearcats defeated the Missionaries, 89-80, in Salem on January 20.