Kip's Corner 2007-08: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #1

By Kip Ioane

Willamette Splits in Idaho to Open 2007-08 Season:
Head Coach Gordie James and the Bearcats opened the 2007-08 season with a split in the College of Idaho’s Duane Wolfe Memorial Golden Rule Shoot-Out. The Bearcats, behind 17 points each by senior wing Michael Smith and sophomore post Cameron Mitchell, downed the host Yotes, 72-63, on Friday, Nov. 16. Mitchell and senior post Ian Mansfield each grabbed 12 rebounds.

Willamette, despite racing to a 27-11 early lead, was dealt its first loss of the season on Saturday, Nov. 17, as the 'Cats fell to Eastern Oregon University, 95-88. Junior post Kyler McClary led the Bearcats with 22 points and seven rebounds.

The Bearcats will travel to Ashland, Ore., over the Thanksgiving weekend to played two games at the Flagship Inn Tournament, hosted by Southern Oregon University. Willamette will take on Southern Oregon on Friday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. (PST) and will play Oregon Institute of Technology on Saturday, Nov. 24 at 5:30 p.m. (PST).

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Willamette (picked 6th in the NWC Preseason Poll) fielded a lineup mixed with experience and youth over the weekend. Smith, the top returning scorer from last year’s squad (11.1 points per game in 2006-07) and Mansfield, the team’s leading rebounder last year (7.2 avg.), both started. Also starting was McClary (11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2006-07), give the Bearcats three very dependable and experienced players in the lineup.

Exciting freshman point guard Robbie Kunke got his first taste of college action as a starter. Junior post Tain Cantrell, starting for the first time in his career, rounded out the Bearcats' starting five.

Statistics Check
As a team, the Bearcats are currently #1 in the NWC in free throw percentage, hitting on 80.5% of their attempts from the charity stripe. Willamette is also #3 in field goal percentage (51.3%), #2 in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to convert at a 40.5% clip, and #2 in rebounding margin (+4.5 per contest).

Individually, sophomore Cameron Mitchell is off to an impressive start, leading the NWC in free throw percentage at 100% (6 of 6) and coming in #3 in rebounds (7.5 per game) and field goal percentage (69.2%, 9 of 13). Junior Kyler McClary is #3 in rebounds (7.5 avg.) and senior Ian Mansfield is the NWC leader in defensive rebounds, grabbing 7.0 per game. Freshman point guard Robbie Kunke is shooting 61.5% from the floor (8 of 13), good for #5 in the league.

Projected Depth Chart for this Weekend

Point Guard
Starter - Robbie Kunke (Fr.)
Back-up - Ricky Thompson (Fr.)

Shooting Guard
Starter - Michael Smith (Sr.)
Back-up - Corey Costantino

Wing
Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Nick Babij

Post
Starter - Ian Mansfield
Back-up - Simon Currie

Post
Starter - Tain Cantrell
Back-up - Cameron Mitchell

Battling the Cascade
Willamette opens its season with four consecutive games against the Cascade Conference, an NAIA league made up of teams from Washington, Oregon and Idaho. WU has already defeated the College of Idaho (picked to finish 4th in the league), lost a close contest with Eastern Oregon (picked to tie for 2nd). The Bearcats will battle Southern Oregon (picked 6th) and Oregon Tech (picked to tie for 2nd) over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Road Losing Streak Snapped
Willamette’s win over College of Idaho on Nov. 16 snapped the Bearcats’ seven-game road losing streak (dating back to an 85-72 victory over California Lutheran in December of 2006). Willamette’s one road victory thus far this season also matches the total road wins from a year ago.

Scouting the Opponents
Southern Oregon University is member of the Cascade Conference and is an NAIA institution. The Raiders, under the guidance of by Head Coach Brian McDermott, are currently 4-4 and are coming off an 85-65 win over Pacific Union. The Raiders, who fell to the Bearcats last year in Salem, 66-51, are lead by senior guard Matt Cowell, with 11.1 points per game, and by junior forward Ryon Pool, with 10.4 points per contest.

Oregon Institute of Technology also is a member of the Cascade Conference and is a member of the NAIA. Head Coach Dan Miles' team is currently 6-1. Oregon Tech is being lead on the year by junior post (6'10") Christian Cavanaugh’s 18.1 points per game and by senior forward Ryan Fiegi’s 17.0 points per game. OIT and Willamette last played in 2005, with the Bearcats emerging victorious, 66-65, in a game played in Ashland. Former Bearcat Josh Erickson broke a 65-65 tie by hitting the first of two free throws with one second left.

Cameron Mitchell leads the NWC in free throws (6 of 6, 100%) and is third in rebounding (7.5 avg.) and field goal shooting (9 of 13, 69.2%).

Cameron Mitchell leads the NWC in free throws (6 of 6, 100%) and is third in rebounding (7.5 avg.) and field goal shooting (9 of 13, 69.2%).

Kyler McClary scored 22 points against Eastern Oregon.

Kyler McClary scored 22 points against Eastern Oregon.