Kip's Corner 2008-09: Bearcat Hoop Internet Release #8

By Kip Ioane

Bearcats Look to End Three-Game Skid Friday at Home versus Lutes:
Head Coach Gordie James and his staff will try to find the right answers to a three-game losing streak when the Willamette University men’s basketball team returns to action on Friday, Jan. 30 by hosting the Lutes of Pacific Lutheran University at Cone Fieldhouse.

WU is coming off consecutive home losses to George Fox University and Linfield College, sandwiched around a blowout loss to league leader the University of Puget Sound on the road in Tacoma, Wash. Tipoff for Friday’s date with the Lutes is 8 p.m. (PST), following the women’s game at 6 p.m.

Just Past the Halfway Point
Willamette is currently 8-8, 4-5 on the season, and with seven league games to go, the Northwest Conference portion of the schedule is already just past the halfway point. The following is a look at what has gone right for WU thus far this year, and some issues that need addressing if the Bearcats are to make a run at one of the four NWC Tournament spots available at season’s end:

* Cameron Mitchell is amongst the conference leaders in scoring (16.8 points per game) and field goal percentage (55.8%). He leads the NWC in rebounding (10.7 avg).
* Kyler McClary is averaging 15 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game.
* Marcus Holmes is fifth in the NWC in 3-point shooting at 45.5%.
* Robbie Kunke is fifth in the conference in assists at 4.63 per game.
* Scott Schoettgen, Holmes, and Josh Erickson have provided 20 points per game for the ‘Cats off the bench.
* Willamette has three road wins (PLU, Linfield, Lewis and Clark) in NWC play
* Nick Babij, in his first year starting, has provided solid defense on some of the NWC’s most dangerous offensive threats.
* Corey Costantino is averaging close to 10 points per game while shooting 49% from the floor.
* WU closes the year with four of its last seven games at home
* WU continues to get great support from the home fans, as the Bearcats are at the top of the NWC in total attendance and second in home attendance.

Areas That Need Addressing
* Willamette has already lost three home games in NWC play (Whitworth, George Fox, and Linfield).
* Willamette is shooting only 67.4% from the free throw line as a team.
* WU is giving up 46.9% shooting from the field.
* The Bearcats as a team are only even in assists-to-turnover ratio.
* Cameron Mitchell and Corey Costantino are among the league leaders in fouls.
* During their current three-game skid, the Bearcats have faced double-digit deficits in the first five minutes of each game.
* WU still must face difficult road games at Whitworth, Whitman, and George Fox.
* Willamette currently sits in fifth place, with only four NWC teams qualifying for the league’s postseason tournament.

Race for the Crown
Here is a look at the standings in the NWC. Remember, the top four teams at the end of the season advance to the NWC Tournament, with the winner of the tourney getting an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Puget Sound, 8-0 NWC, 15-2 Overall
Lewis & Clark, 6-2 NWC, 12-5 Overall
Whitworth, 5-3 NWC, 13-4 Overall
Linfield, 5-4 NWC, 7-11 Overall
Willamette, 4-5 NWC, 8-8 Overall
Pacific (Ore.), 3-5 NWC, 8-8 Overall
Pacific Lutheran, 2-6 NWC, 8-9 Overall
George Fox, 2-6 NWC, 6-11 Overall
Whitman, 2-6 NWC, 6-11 Overall

Heavy Lifting
Senior Kyler McClary has done his part to keep the Bearcats afloat, leading the team in scoring in four of the last five games, and upping his rebounding average in conference play to almost seven rebounds per game. McClary tied a career high with 30 points against George Fox on Friday, Jan. 23.

Still Kickin’
One benefit of the newly expanded NWC Tournament is that down the stretch of league play, a few more teams will be alive for the fourth and final tournament berth. This season, Linfield currently occupies the final slot in the field, but every other NWC team is within two games of the Wildcats in the loss column, making the final round of league play all the more interesting.

Catch the ‘Cats
For all the fans of the Bearcats who cannot get to the games in person, Full Access Sports will be providing a live internet webcast of all the Willamette men’s and women’s basketball games during the conference season. Mike Allegre typically supplied the play-by-play, but Craig Spivey will be filling in on Friday, Jan. 30 for the games against Pacific Lutheran. Follow the link below to access Bearcat action!


Projected Depth Chart for this Weekend

Point Guard
Starter - Josh Erickson
Back-up - Robbie Kunke/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
Pacific Lutheran University is member of the Northwest Conference and also competes in NCAA Division III. The Lutes of Head Coach Steve Dickerson are coming off a loss on Tuesday night (Jan. 27) to Pacific University and are currently 8-9 overall, 2-6 in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran is led in scoring by Josh Dressler and Kyle McTaggert, who average 18.8 and 12.0 points per game, respectively. Willamette defeated the Lutes in Tacoma, 88-70, on Jan. 2.

Kyler McClary is averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Kyler McClary is averaging 15.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Cameron Mitchell leads the NWC in rebounding with 10.7 boards per game.

Cameron Mitchell leads the NWC in rebounding with 10.7 boards per game.

Corey Costantino has averaged 9.3 points per game this season.

Corey Costantino has averaged 9.3 points per game this season.