Kip's Corner 2007-08: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #9

By Kip Ioane

Pivotal Washington Trip Awaits Bearcats:
Head Coach Gordie James and the Bearcats will hit the road this weekend, faced with the daunting task of the annual back-to-back stops in Walla Walla, Wash., and Spokane, Wash., for games against Whitman College and Whitworth University, respectively. Willamette, after splitting home games with Pacific University, a 62-57 win, and the University of Puget Sound, a 90-75 defeat, currently stands at 6-11 overall and 4-4 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats will play five of their final eight conference games on the road.

Breaking Down the Bearcats
• Senior wing Michael Smith was nominated for Player of the Week honors in the NWC this past week, after averaging 19.5 points in two games over the weekend.
• Junior wing/post Kyler McClary had another outstanding weekend, as he averaged 15.0 points per game.
• Sophomore Cameron Mitchell averaged a double-double over the weekend, scoring 10.0 points and hauling in 10.0 rebounds per game.

Statistically Speaking
• WU is #1 in NWC action in 3-point shooting, hitting on 41.3% of its attempts from downtown.
• WU is #1 in the NWC in assists during conference action, as the Bearcats have averaged 16.5 assists per game.
• WU is #2 in the NWC in field goal percentage during conference games, converting 49.9% of its shots.
• WU is #2 in the NWC in blocked shots, getting 2.5 per conference game.
• WU is #3 in NWC games in rebounding margin at +3.1 per game.
• WU is #4 in scoring average in NWC games with 76.4 points per contest.

Projected Depth Chart for this Weekend

Point Guard
Starter - Robbie Kunke
Back-up - Ricky Thompson

Shooting Guard

Starter - Michael Smith
Back-up - Nick Babij

Starter - Corey Costantino
Back-up - Simon Currie

Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Ian Mansfield

Starter - Tain Cantrell
Back-up - Cameron Mitchell

A Quick Look at the NWC
Puget Sound handled a tough Oregon double dip last weekend. UPS rallyed from 20 points down to defeat Lewis and Clark, 92-87 in overtime, on Friday, Jan. 25 in Portland, then handed the Bearcats a 90-75 defeat in Salem on Saturday, Jan. 26. The Loggers are tied with Whitworth at the top of the NWC, each at 7-1. After the top two, the conference becomes a real scramble, as five teams are within two games of the third and final playoff spot (Linfield is 5-3, followed by L&C at 5-4, Willamette and Pacific Lutheran at 4-4, and Pacific at 4-5).

Pack Your Bags
Every season, the Bearcats make the trek to Eastern Washington, and every year it seems each game is a battle. Willamette’s last sweep of the trip was during the 2001-02 campaign. WU’s last win at Whitworth came during the 2003-04 season (which is also its last victory over the Pirates). The Bearcats were swept on the trip last season.

A Few Good Men
Willamette has dressed only eight players the past three weeks due to several injuries and external factors. This week, the Bearcats hope to have the services of 10 players, as Nick Babij (Jr., Ontario, Ore.) and Ian Mansfield (Sr., Hillsboro, Ore.) are expected back in uniform. Mansfield has been a three-ear starter for the ‘Cats, while Babij was ready to increase his playing time before an ankle injury sidelined his efforts.

Where are They Now?
Kip’s 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 players Brian Newton (‘02) and Nik Lubisich (’01).

Newton was a starter and a captain on the 2001-02 edition of Bearcat Hoop that advanced to the semifinals of the NWC Tournament. A versatile performer, he played multiple positions during his time at Willamette. Newton and his wife, Natalie, live in Beaverton, Ore., where Brian is an Accounting and Finance Analyst.

Lubisich was a First Team ALL-NWC pick in both basketball and baseball during the 2000-01 athletic year. One of WU’s all-time best shooters, Lubisich all levels of the NCAA in 3-point field goals made per game, while averaging 20.1 points per contest. In baseball, his pitching and hitting helped Willamette advance to the West Regional of the 2001 NCAA Division III Tournament. After spending the past six seasons with the Chicago White Sox organization, Lubisich is currently looking forward to pitching for another Major League farm club this upcoming season.

Scouting the Opponents
Whitman College competes in the Northwest Conference and is a member of NCAA Division III. The Missionaries under Head Coach Skip Molitor are 4-12 on the season and 0-8 in the NWC. Whitman, always dangerous on its home court, has received leadership from senior guard Chris Faidley’s, who is averaging 24.4 points per game. WU defeated Whitman, 86-71, in Salem earlier this year.

Whitworth University also is a member of the Northwest Conference. The Pirates compete in NCAA Division III. Head Coach Jim Hayford has his team at 14-3 overall and tied for first place in the NWC with a 7-1 record. The Pirates have a balanced attack, with Ryan Symes providing 17 points per game and Colin Willemsen adding 13 points per contest. Whitworth outlasted the Bearcats in Salem, 72-65 in overtime, earlier in the season.

MIke Smith battles for a shot against Whitworth earlier this season.

MIke Smith battles for a shot against Whitworth earlier this season.