Willamette Opens Season with 72-63 Win over College of Idaho

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

CALDWELL, IDAHO -- Sophomore post Cameron Mitchell (Portland, OR/Grant HS/University of Redlands) scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, as Willamette University opened its season with a 72-63 victory over the College of Idaho on Friday, Nov. 16, in the first round of the 21st Annual Duane Wolfe Memorial Golden Rule Shoot-Out. The Bearcats shot 53.8% (14 of 26) in the second half and limited the Coyotes to just 29.7% shooting for the game (19 of 64). College of Idaho fell to 2-3 with the loss.

Mitchell tied for the team lead in scoring and rebounding. He was matched on the scoreboard by senior wing Mike Smith (Talent, OR/Phoenix HS), who also tallied 17 points. On the boards, Mitchell was matched by senior post Ian Mansfield (Hillsboro, OR/Century HS), who hauled down 12 rebounds, all on defense.

Kyler McClary (Jr., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) tacked on 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Willamette claimed a 47-32 advantage on the boards, as the Bearcats avenged a 116-77 loss at College of Idaho in the 2006-07 season opener.

Josh Owen led College of Idaho with a game-high 21 points. Owen also earned six rebounds. Steffen Spinks contributed 11 points, while Kurt Nielson achieved eight rebounds.

The teams were tied, 27-27, at halftime and College of Idaho started the second half with a 5-0 outburst. The Bearcats responded with a 21-3 run to take a 48-35 lead with 10:42 remaining in the game. McClary scored eight points during the rally, including a 3-pointer.

The Coyotes battled back to within three points, 54-51, with 4:26 left on the clock. College of Idaho's comeback was achieved with a 16-6 run. Owen completed the run with a 3-pointer, the only trifecta for the Yotes in the second half.

Mitchell sank two free throws with 4:04 remaining to extend WU's lead to 57-51. Owen hit a free throw for the Yotes with 3:40 to go, but missed his second attempt. Willamette grabbed the rebound, then used two offensive boards at the other end of floor to keep possession until Mitchell put in a layup with 3:10 left for a 59-52 advantage.

A College of Idaho turnover led to Robbie Kunke (Fr., G, Clackamas, OR/Clackamas HS) adding two free throws for Willamette just six seconds later, as the 'Cats took a nine-point lead. Kurt Nielson provided the Yotes with a basket and a foul shot at the 2:49 mark to cut the lead to 61-55.

The Bearcats increased their lead to eight points with 2:34 on the clock, when Mitchell tossed in two free throws. Kunke added another free throw at the 2:04 mark for a 64-55 margin. Willamette led by eight or more points until the final 20 seconds, when College of Idaho pulled within seven points on two occasions.

Willamette's defense limited the Coyotes to 29.0% shooting (9 of 31) in the first half and to 30.3% shooting (10 of 33) in the second half. Willamette finished the game with 46.9% field goal accuracy for the night (23 of 49). WU's advantages in field goal shooting and rebounding were partially offset by 23 turnovers. College of Idaho lost the ball 13 times.

The Bearcats shot 76.7% at the line by connecting on 23 of 30 charity shots. The Coyotes sank 20 of 30 free throws for 66.7%, but made just 5 of 34 three-pointers (14.7%), including 1 of 13 in the second half. The Yotes also played all but five minutes without Craig McGee, their leading scorer, who entered the game averaging 15.8 points per game. McGee suffered a hand injury in the first half.

In the second round of the Golden Rule Shoot-Out on Saturday, Nov. 17, Willamette will take on Eastern Oregon University at 6 p.m. (PST). College of Idaho will play Westminster College at 8 p.m. (PST.). Westminster defeated Eastern Oregon, 88-71, in the other first round game.

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 72, College of Idaho 63
Cameron Mitchell began his Willamette career with 17 points and 12 rebounds against College of Idaho.

Cameron Mitchell began his Willamette career with 17 points and 12 rebounds against College of Idaho.