Kip's Corner 2007-08: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #7

By Kip Ioane

WU at Crossroads after Three Games in Five Days:
The Willamette University men’s basketball team finds itself at a critical juncture in the 2007-08 season. Willamette has just finished a three-game stretch of games in the past five days (topped off by a close 84-80 loss at NWC rival Linfield College on Tuesday) that leaves the Bearcats with a precarious 2-3 record in the league. In addition, not only is senior post Ian Mansfield out of the lineup indefinitely clearing up some academic issues, but injuries to sophomore Sean Spang and Nick Babij have left the Bearcats with only eight experienced players in uniform heading into a Saturday, Jan. 19 contest at Lewis and Clark College.

Breaking Down the Bearcats

• Senior wing Michael Smith and junior post Kyler McClary continue to be the engines that drive the Bearcats. In the win over George Fox University, and the losses to Pacific Lutheran University and Linfield, the duo combined to score 116 points.

Against George Fox, Smith scored 23 points and McClary added 22, including a 3-pointer with five second left in the second half to force overtime. Against PLU, McClary tallied 22 points and Smith tacked on 20. At Linfield, Smith earned 15 points and McClary produced 10 points.

For the season, McClary is averaging 16.1 points per game. Smith is contributing 15.9 points per contest.

• Sophomore post Cameron Mitchell had an impressive double-double against Linfield, as he scored 17 points and collected 12 rebounds.

• Junior wing Corey Costantino stepped into the starting line-up against Linfield and responded with 19 points in just 19 minutes of action.

Statistically Speaking
• In conference play, WU is third in field goal percentage, as the ‘Cats have converted 49.8% of their shots against NWC opponents (149 of 299). WU also ranks third in the NWC in field goal percentage for the season at 46.2%.

• Overall, WU is first in the NWC in 3-point shooting, with 41.0% accuracy on attempts from downtown (103 of 251). The Bearcats also are first in NWC games at 42.6% (40 of 94).

• WU is third in the NWC in blocked shots, getting 2.29 blocks per game (WU is second in NWC games at 2.6 blocks per game)

• WU is fourth in the NWC in assists, averaging 15.0 assists per game (WU is first in NWC games at 17.2 assists per game).

Projected Depth Chart for this Weekend

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

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

Starter - Corey Costantino (Jr.)
Back-up - Simon Currie (Jr.)

Starter - Kyler McClary (Jr.)
Back-up - Simon Currie (Jr.)

Starter - Tain Cantrell (Jr.)
Back-up - Cameron Mitchell (So.)

A Quick Look at the NWC

The NWC race is heating up, as teams are now close to finishing their first trip through league action. Currently, UPS leads the league at 4-0, followed closely by Linfield, PLU, and Whitworth, all with one conference loss. The top three teams at the conclusion of the regular season will enter the NWC Tournament.

Shooting the Lights Out
While there have been many contributing factors to WU’s ups and downs this season, shooting against conference opponents has not been one of them. Among the NWC leaders in field goal percentage in conference games are Michael Smith (#1, 64.0%), Cameron Mitchell (#3, 61.8%) and Corey Costantino (#15, 52.8%). In 3-point shooting accuracy against NWC foes, Smith (#3, 59.4%), Costantino (#4, 54.5%) and McClary (#5, 50%) are among the best.

Where are They Now?
Kips Corner will be looking up Bearcat Hoop alumni every week, giving an insight into their whereabouts, as well as a look back on their “glory days” at Willamette. This week’s edition features former Bearcat player and coach Nelson Lomax (’95).

Lomax, who played on the 1993-94 edition of Bearcat Hoop that reached the National Quarterfinals, was a key fixture on the Bearcat coaching staff the past eight seasons as an assistant for Gordie James. This year, he is taking time off from coaching to focus on his business and family. Nelson currently works for Professional Mortgage Company in Salem. He lives with his wife, Carrie, and sons, Jalen and Mason.

Scouting the Opponent

Lewis and Clark College is a member of the Northwest Conference and participates in NCAA Division III. Head Coach Bob Gaillard’s team is 8-4 on the season and 2-2 in the NWC. In the NWC Preseason Poll, the Pioneers were the coaches’ choice to win the conference title. Lewis & Clark has been paced this year by Mark Robinowitz, with 13.8 points per game, and by Tyson Pappenfuss, with 13.3 points per contest. L&C swept the Bearcats last season.

Mike Smith leads the Northwest Conference with 64.0% field goal shooting in conference games this season.

Mike Smith leads the Northwest Conference with 64.0% field goal shooting in conference games this season.