Linfield Holds off Willamette for 84-80 Victory

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

McMINNVILLE, ORE. -- Linfield College held a 10-point lead with 3:53 remaining, but had to hold off Willamette University for an 84-80 Northwest Conference victory over the Bearcats at Ted Wilson Gymnasium on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Linfield improved to 9-5 overall and to 4-1 in the NWC. Willamette went to 4-10 overall, 2-3 in the NWC.

The Wildcats were in front 73-63 following a 3-pointer by Austin Hunt with just under four minutes left, but the Bearcats scored three quick points to start a rally. First, Mike Smith (Sr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS) hit one of two free throws with 3:26 on the clock. WU then forced a turnover and Smith sank a jumper seven seconds later to pull the Bearcats within 73-66.

WU trailed 75-71 after a layup by Simon Currie (Jr., Wing/Post, Bend, OR/Mountain View HS) with 2:36 left. Later, the Bearcats also trailed by four points, 79-75, when Cameron Mitchell (So., Post, Portland, OR/Grant HS/U. of Redlands) scored inside with 26 seconds remaining.

The Bearcats earned another steal, but Smith was unable to keep possession as he moved through the lane. Even so, he managed to save the ball on its way out of bounds.

WU regained control and Robbie Kunke (Fr., PG, Clackamas, OR/Clackamas HS) missed a running jumper in traffic with 19 seconds remaining. The rebound bounced off several players and went outside to Smith, who attempted a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. The shot bounced off the rim and Drew Schroeder rebounded the ball for Linfield.

Schroeder was fouled and made both free throws, giving Linfield an 81-75 advantage with 13 seconds left. Costantino cut the lead to 81-78 on a 3-pointer with eight seconds to go, but Erik Olson hit two free throws one second later.

Trailing by four points, the Bearcats threw a length-of-the-court pass to Kyler McClary (Jr., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS). A Linfield defender made contact while McClary was attempting to catch the pass. No foul was called and the ball went out of bounds. Linfield added two more free throws and Corey Costantino (Jr., Wing, Ashland, OR/Ashland HS) put in a layup for Willamette at the buzzer.

Steve Taylor led Linfield with 24 points, five assists and five steals. Olson produced 19 points for the Wildcats, while Cody Tesoro chipped in 12 points. The Wildcats shot 44.4% from the field (28 of 63) and made 10 of 23 three-pointers (43.5%). Linfield converted 18 of 22 free throws.

Costantino was WU's top scorer with 19 points. Mitchell contributed 17 points and 12 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season. Smith supplied 15 points and McClary finished with 14 points. Tain Cantrell (Jr., Post, Beaverton, OR/Westview HS) grabbed seven boards for the Bearcats.

Willamette was successful on 32 of 56 shots (57.1%) during the game, including 19 of 29 (65.5%) over the final 20 minutes. WU hit 8 of 13 three-pointers (61.5%), but connected on just 8 of 15 free throws (53.3%).

Linfield was in front 37-30 at halftime, following a three-pointer by Tesoro with five seconds left in the opening period. Tesoro led Linfield at the break with 10 points. Mitchell was WU's top scorer and rebounder in the first half, as he scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

WU trailed 42-33 in the second half, before rallying to tie the score at 47-47 on a rebound and layup by McClary with 13:21 remaining. Linfield took a 50-47 lead when Olson made three free throws at the 13:03 mark.

Willamette tied the score again at 50-50 with 11:38 to go, but couldn't pull into the lead. Linfield was in front by just two points, 61-59, after Smith scored on a jumper and hit a foul shot with 7:33 to go. The Wildcats then went on a 12-4 run.

The Bearcats will return to the road on Saturday, Jan. 19 to take on Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore. Game time is slated for 8 p.m. (PST).

Linfield College 84, Willamette University 80
Cameron Mitchell scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Linfield College for his fourth double-double of the season.

Cameron Mitchell scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Linfield College for his fourth double-double of the season.