Kip's Corner 2007-08: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #2

By Kip Ioane

WU Follows Early Trend by Splitting Weekend Trip:
The Willamette University men’s basketball team fought through an off-shooting weekend to split a pair of games at the Flagship Inn Classic in Ashland, Ore. Despite shooting just 31.3% (21 of 67) on Friday, Nov. 23, Willamette rode a late-game 11-2 run to a 56-47 win over host Southern Oregon University.

The Bearcats, however, were unable to overcome a second consecutive cold-shooting performance on Saturday, Nov. 24, as WU shot 34.4% (22 of 64) and blew a 5-point halftime lead in a 74-63 loss to Oregon Tech. OIT was ranked #11 in the NAIA. Willamette travels to California this weekend for a pair of important NCAA Division III West Region games versus the University of La Verne and Whittier College.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
Sophomore post Cameron Mitchell and senior wing Michael Smith paced the Bearcat offense against Southern Oregon, as Mitchell scored 14 points and Smith added 12. Against Oregon Tech, juniors Kyler McClary (Post) and Simon Currie (Wing/Post) were the focal points of the WU attack, combining to score 33 points. McClary hit the nets for 19 points, while Currie provided 14 points.

Willamette dominated the glass on Friday night, grabbing 56 rebounds in the victory over SOU. The Raiders earned just 33 rebounds. On Saturday, the Bearcats of Head Coach Gordie James lost the battle on the boards to the Owls of OIT, 43-32.

A focus during practice this week will be taking care of the basketball, as the Bearcats turned the ball over 28 times over the weekend. On the positive side of things, WU continued its reliable free throw shooting, hitting 19 of 25 attempts (76%) during the two games in the Flagship Inn Classic.

Statistics Check
As a team, the Bearcats are currently #2 in the Northwest Conference in free throw percentage, hitting on 78.8% of their attempts from the charity stripe (52 of 66). Willamette is #1 in the NWC in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to convert at just a 40.0% clip (94 of 245). The Bearcats are #2 in 3-point field goal percentage defense, giving up only 24.7% shooting (22 of 89) from behind the arc. The Bearcats are #1 in the NWC in rebounding margin (+5.3 per contest).

Individually, sophomore Cameron Mitchell has experienced a tremendous start and leads the NWC in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game. He also leads the conference in blocked shots (1.00 per game) and stands fifth in field goal percentage at 57.1% (16 of 28). Junior Kyler McClary is eighth in scoring with 15.0 points per game and is sixth in rebounding (7.0 avg.).

Senior post Ian Mansfield is #3 in the NWC in defensive rebounds, after grabbing 5.75 rebounds per game. Fellow senior Michael Smith is shooting 93.8% from the free throw line (15 of 16), good for second place 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

Conference Clashes
Willamette will play two Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) teams over the weekend, when they take on La Verne on Friday, Nov. 30 and play Whittier on Saturday, Dec. 1. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (PST). The battles between teams from the NWC and the SCIAC have added importance in terms of postseason hopes, as both leagues rely primarily on one another for “In-Region” wins that bolster a team’s NCAA Division III profile.

Road Warriors
Counting the end of last season, Willamette has now played nine out of its last 10 games on the road. The Bearcats will be on the road for the next 5 games of this season and will not debut at Cone Field House until Jan. 4, 2008 versus NWC foe Whitman College. The ‘Cats last played at home on Feb. 9, 2007, when they earned an 84-79 Senior Night win over George Fox University.

Scouting the Opponents
La Verne University is member of the SCIAC and competes in NCAA Division III. The Leopards, led by first-year Head Coach Rich Reed, are currently 1-2 and coming off a 59-56 win over Chapman University. La Verne, which has never played the Bearcats, was t paced by Drew Terry’s 14 points and 6 rebounds in the victory over Chapman.

Whittier College also is a member of the SCIAC and is a member of NCAA Division III. Head Coach Rock Carter’s Poets are currently 2-1, after defeating La Sierra University, 77-71, in their last game. Whittier last played the Bearcats during on Dec. 30, 2005, in a game won by WU, 81-61, in California.

Kyler McClary is 8th in the NWC in scoring with 15.0 points per game. He is 6th in rebounding with 7.0 boards per contest.

Kyler McClary is 8th in the NWC in scoring with 15.0 points per game. He is 6th in rebounding with 7.0 boards per contest.