Kunke's Layup at Buzzer Sends Willamette Past Linfield, 82-81

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Robbie Kunke (Fr., PG, Clackamas, OR/Clackamas HS) scored on a layup at the buzzer, sending Willamette University to an 82-81 Northwest Conference victory over Linfield College, on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at Cone Field House. The winning shot was set up by Corey Costantino (Jr., Wing, Ashland, OR/Ashland HS), who passed the ball through a Linfield double-team and found Kunke under the basket.

With the win, the Bearcats improved to 8-5 in the NWC and moved into third place, one-half game behind Whitworth University (8-4) and one-half game in front of Lewis & Clark College (7-5). Linfield dropped to 7-6 in the NWC, one full game behind Willamette. The University of Puget Sound holds first place at 9-3.

Willamette moved to 10-12 on the season with its sixth win in the last eight games. Linfield fell to 12-10 overall.

The visiting Wildcats took an 81-80 lead with 6.7 seconds left, when Erik Olson hit both ends of a two-shot foul. Olson, who went 6 of 6 on three-pointers during the game, led all scorers with 24 points.

Costantino took the ensuing in-bounds pass near one corner of the court, headed toward the opposite corner at the other end of the floor, then stopped near the elbow of the 3-point line. He was double-teamed with about two seconds left, but quickly spotted Kunke, who shot just before the buzzer. By the time the layup went through the basket, the game was over.

Kyler McClary topped Willamette with 22 points and also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds. Costantino tacked on 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. He was 8 of 11 from the field.

Kunke finished with 15 points, five assists and three steals for the Bearcats. Cameron Mitchell (So., Post, Portland, OR/Grant HS/U. of Redlands) provided solid inside play, as he recorded 13 points, hit 6 of 9 field goals and hauled down four boards.

Olson scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half, when he made five three-pointers. He went 2 for 3 from the field in the second half, while adding one three-pointer. His two free throws in the closing seconds were his only shots at the foul line during the game.

Also in double figures for Linfield were Brian Murphy and Steve Taylor. Murphy was 6 of 7 from the floor and also contributed three steals. Taylor was 5 of 10 on field goals, including 2 of 4 on three-point attempts.

Early in the game, Linfield hit a trio of 3-pointers on its way to an 11-7 lead. The Bearcats responded with an 8-2 run to claim a 15-13 advantage. WU held a 23-22 margin with 10:59 remaining in the half. Linfield moved past the Bearcats with an 8-0 run, powered by Murphy, who provided a three pointer, an assist, and a steal.

The final points in Linfield's first-half run were scored on a 3-pointer by Olson with 9:36 on the clock. It was the Wildcats' seventh 3-pointer of the opening period. Linfield went 9 of 13 (69.2%) on 3-pointers in the first half and finished the game 12 of 22 (54.5%) from long-range.

Willamette ended Linfield's run with a basket by Mitchell at the 9:23 mark. Mitchell added a layup just over a minute later, then hit 1 of 2 free throws at the 6:49 mark, to pull WU within 30-28. He also contributed two rebounds and a steal during the five-point outburst.

The Bearcats tied the game on a jumper by Mike Smith (Jr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS) with 6:05 on the clock and took the lead, 35-32, on a 3-pointer by McClary with 5:26 left. Linfield answered with an 11-4 run to claim a 43-39 advantage. The Wildcats led 46-45 at halftime.

WU opened the second half with a 10-4 run, as the Bearcats took a five-point lead. LC tallied the next six points to surge back in front, 56-55, with 15:16 left.

The teams continued to exchange leads. Willamette held the largest margins of the second half at 68-63 with 10:31 remaining and at 80-75 following two free throws by Smith with 1:39 to go. In between, Linfield owned a 73-72 lead at the 5:32 mark, before WU went on a 8-2 run.

Linfield rallied with a jumper by Murphy with 1:21 to go, a layup by Murphy with 30 seconds on the clock and Olson's two free throws with 6.7 seconds left.

After Murphy' layup cut WU's lead to 80-79, the Bearcats had a chance to increase their advantage, but McClary was unable to convert a pair of free throws with 23 second remaining. Murphy missed a 3-pointer for Linfield with nine seconds to go, but Olson hauled down the rebound and was fouled by McClary.

The game featured a total of 25 lead changes and 10 ties, including 15 lead changes and five ties in the second half. Willamette concluded the night 31 of 55 from the field (56.4%) and 2 of 8 on 3-pointers (25.0%). Linfield connected on 31 of 66 shots (47.0%).

WU achieved an edge at the free throw line, where the Bearcats hit 18 of 25 foul shots (72.0%). The Wildcats were 7 of 13 at the charity stripe (53.8%), but offset the free throw differential by hitting 10 more 3-pointers than Willamette.

Smith, who entered the game as WU's leading scorer with 16.6 points per game, was limited by foul trouble and an injury he suffered in Saturday's game versus Pacific Lutheran University. Against Linfield, he scored four points and registered four assists in 23 minutes. He accumulated a total of four fouls.

The Bearcats will conclude a three-game homestand on Saturday, Feb. 16., when they host Lewis & Clark College. Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE
Willamette University 82, Linfield College 81
Robbie Kunke scored 15 points against Linfield, including the winning basket.

Robbie Kunke scored 15 points against Linfield, including the winning basket.