Kip's Corner 2008-09: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #5

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats Riding Six-Game Win Streak; Host Pirates and Missionaries:

The Willamette University’s men’s basketball team has shaken off a slow start to the season and has found its groove just in time for Northwest Conference play. Head Coach Gordie James’ team has reeled off six consecutive wins, including road victories in its first two NWC games on the road. The Bearcats currently stand 6-3 overall, 2-0 in NWC.

Last week, Willamette earned wins at Pacific Lutheran University, 88-70, and at Linfield College, 61-58. The Bearcats have returned home to Cone Field House to host defending NWC champion Whitworth University on Friday, Jan. 9 and vastly improved Whitman College on Saturday, Jan. 10. On Friday, the action against the rival Pirates will tip off at 8 p.m., while Saturday’s contest with the Missionaries begins at 6 p.m. Both games will follow the Bearcat women’s action.

Weekend Recap

Willamette rode standout performances from a number of individuals for a victory over the Lutes of Pacific Lutheran on Jan. 2 in Tacoma. Cameron Mitchell scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds in the win, while Scott Schoettgen had his first double-figure game as a Bearcat, recording 12 points off the bench. Corey Costantino scored 13 points, while Josh Erickson had 10 assists off the bench. Against Linfield on Jan. 6 in McMinnville, Ore., Kyler McClary scored 18 points, Erickson added 11 points, and Nick Babij hit the go ahead free throws with under a minute left to provide the winning margin over the Wildcats.

Statistically Speaking

Willamette currently ranks #2 in the Northwest Conference in rebounding margin, as the Bearcats have outrebounding their opponents by 5.0 rebounds per game. The ‘Cats are #3 in the NWC in field goal percentage (46.2%) and #2 in 3-point field goal percentage (39.1%).

Individually, Cameron Mitchell leads the NWC in rebounding with 12.0 board per game and is #2 in scoring with 20.3 points per contest. Kyler McClary is 10th in scoring with 15.6 points per game, Robbie Kunke is #4 in assists with 4.78 per game, and Josh Erickson is #3 in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting 47.6% of his attempts.

Home Sweet Home

Even though Willamette students are on Winter Break, the Bearcats are still looking forward to enjoying the “home floor advantage” of Cone Field House. WU is currently undefeated in the friendly confines of the Sparks Center. The Bearcats lead the NWC in home attendance and overall attendance, as this edition of Bearcat Hoop has been seen by over 5,000 people.

Balancing the Scales

Willamette’s victory over the Pirates of Whitworth a year ago in Spokane snapped a nine-game losing streak to Whitworth, renewing a bit of the “rivalry” aspect of a series that has included three different meetings in the NWC Tournament. However, the Bearcats still have some work to do, as the Pirates have not lost in Salem since Ryan Hepp and Marques Johnson led the 2002-03 team to a 66-56 win over Whitworth on February 15, 2003.

Back in the Saddle

Willamette will see a familiar face in different colors Saturday, as Whitman Head Coach Eric Bridgeland makes his return to Cone Field House. Bridgeland was the head coach at the University of Puget Sound from 2002-06. He guided the Loggers to the NCAA Division III Elite Eight in 2005-06. After a stint at Pepperdine, Bridgeland is back in the NWC in Walla Walla, Wash., and already has helped the Missionaries to a 2-0 start in conference play.

Across the Atlantic

Bearcat alumnus John Olinger (’06) received some exciting news this week from across the Atlantic Ocean. Olinger, an All-Conference guard for Willamette from 2004-05 and 2005-06, was signed to a professional team in England. He leaves next week to begin play.

Olinger parlayed a recent tour with Athletes in Action into another quality opportunity to not only continue his playing career, but also to continue doing humanitarian work across the globe. Good Luck Johnny O!

Projected Depth Chart this Week

Point Guard
Starter - Robbie Kunke
Back-up - Josh Erickson/Grant Leslie

Shooting Guard
Starter - Corey Costantino
Back-up - Marcus Holmes/Ricky Thompson

Starter - Nick Babij
Back-up - Robert Wood/Scott Schoettgen

Starter - Kyler McClary
Back-up - Scott Schoettgen/Nick Lange

Starter - Cameron Mitchell
Back-up - Tain Cantrell/Taylor Mounts

Scouting the Opponents

Whitworth University is member of the Northwest Conference and is an NCAA Division III institution. Head Coach Jim Hayford and the defending NWC champions are currently 10-1 on the season, 2-0 in conference play. The Pirates are outscoring their opponents by an average of 20.9 points per game. Whitworth is led in scoring by Nate Montgomery and David Riley, each with 15.8 points per game. Calvin Jurich, who registered a triple-double this past week, follows with 13.3 points per game. The Bearcats and the Pirates split a pair of games a year ago, with each team winning on each other team’s home floor.

Whitman College is a member of the NWC and competes in NCAA Division III. Head Coach Eric Bridgeland has guided the Missionaries to a 6-5 record so far this season. Whitman is 2-0 in the NWC. The Missionaries rank #2 in the conference in scoring with 83.2 points per game, and are being paced by returning All-NWC guard Chris Faidley’s average of 20.8 points per contest. Willamette swept a pair of games from Whitman a year ago, when the Missionaries were just 5-19, 1-15 in the NWC.

Senior post Kyler McClary scored 18 point at Linfield and is averaging 15.6 points per game this season.

Senior post Kyler McClary scored 18 point at Linfield and is averaging 15.6 points per game this season.

Cameron Mitchell leads with NWC with 12.0 rebounds per game. He ranks second in the NWC in scoring with 20.3 points per game.

Cameron Mitchell leads with NWC with 12.0 rebounds per game. He ranks second in the NWC in scoring with 20.3 points per game.