Willamette Rally Falls Short in Loss to 15th-Ranked Whitworth, 69-68

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University was able to cut six points from Whitworth University's seven-point lead in the final 1:08, but the Bearcats couldn't get the go-ahead shot to fall, as the 15th-ranked Pirates (D3Hoops.com) held on for a 69-68 win at Cone Field House on Friday, Jan. 9. Whitworth improved to 11-1 on the season, including 3-0 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats fell to 6-4 overall, 2-1 in the NWC.

The Bearcats trailed 69-62 after Nate Montgomery made a layup for Whitworth with 1:16 left. Willamette reduced the lead to four points with a 3-pointer by Kyler McClary (Sr., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) at the 1:08 mark, and pulled within 69-68 on a 3-pointer by Josh Erickson (Sr., PG, Keizer, OR/McNary HS) with 40 seconds remaining.

Ross Nakamura missed two free throws with 35 seconds on the clock. Marcus Holmes (So., PG, Seattle, WA/Garfield HS) grabbed the rebound and Willamette had possession the remainder of the game.

McClary was unsuccessful on a trifecta with seven seconds left, but the ball went out of bounds off Whitworth. Following a timeout, Erickson was open in the corner on the in-bounds pass. His 3-point try bounced off the rim and Nick Babij (Sr., Wing, Ontario, OR/Ontario HS) rebounded for the 'Cats.

Babij took a follow shot from close range in heavy traffic. The shot was blocked by Calvin Jurich and McClary rebounded for Willamette midway up the free throw lane.

The clock expired just before McClary took a contested shot. A whistle was blown on the play, so it seemed that a foul might have been called. The whistle, however, was for the end of the game.

The Bearcats received 18 points from McClary, who also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. He blocked a shot and earned one steal, while playing 36 of the game's 40 minutes.

Holmes and Erickson provided exceptional play off the bench. Holmes scored a career-high 14 points and was 4 of 6 from the field, including 3 for 5 on 3-pointers. He also made three free throws in a row after he was fouled on a 3-pointer in the second half. Erickson finished with 10 points and a game-high seven assists.

Whitworth was led by David Riley, who tallied 17 points. Nakamura chipped in 14 points and three assists, while Montgomery contributed 13 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Montgomery also blocked two shots and had a steal.

Bo Gregg supplied the Pirates with 11 points. Calvin Jurich scored just four points for Whitworth, but he grabbed nine boards, earned three assists and had the key blocked shot in the closing seconds.

The game featured 40 fouls, including 21 on the Bearcats, as Willamette battled foul trouble throughout the game. Whitworth eventually got into foul trouble, too, as four Pirates ended the game with four fouls.

Willamette's leading scorer this season, Cameron Mitchell (Jr., Post, Portland, OR/Grant HS/U. of Redlands) picked up two fouls in the first 3:40 and did not return until the second half. He picked up his third foul less than five minutes into the second period, and eventually fouled out with 3:04 remaining.

Despite being limited to 16 minutes, Mitchell still scored nine points and had six rebounds. Back-up wing Scott Schoettgen (Fr., Wing, Columbia, CA/Sonora HS) also fouled out for the 'Cats, as he picked up his fifth foul in the final minute of play. He scored seven points in 11 minutes on the court.

Willamette surged out to leads of 9-2 and 21-10. The Bearcats owned a 12-point lead, 30-18, with 6:57 remaining in the first half, but Whitworth scored the next eight points to open a 17-4 run at the end of the stanza. Montgomery registered a layup with nine seconds left to give the Pirates a 35-34 advantage at the break.

A free throw by Mitchell and a jumper by McClary moved Willamette into a 37-35 lead early in the second period. The lead switched back to Whitworth at 40-39, when Nakamura hit a 3-point basket with 15:33 to go. There were a total of five ties and four lead changes during the second half.

Nakamura also sank a 3-point shot with 9:09 left to give Whitworth its largest lead at 58-50. Willamette countered with an 10-2 run to achieve the final tie of the game, 60-60, with 6:38 remaining. Holmes nailed two 3-pointers during the run, while Erickson and Mitchell each went 2 for 2 at the line.

The Pirates moved in front for good on a layup by Montgomery with 5:12 on the clock. The basket started a 7-0 run that gave Whitworth a 67-60 advantage with 3:22 left. Each team added two points before Willamette began its final rally with just over a minute remaining.

Whitworth limited Willamette to 36.8% shooting (21 of 57), including 29.6% (8 of 27) in the second half. The Pirates shot 41.4% from the field (24 of 58). Both teams made eight three pointers, as the visitors went 8 of 23 and the 'Cats were 8 of 21.

The Bearcats made 18 of 26 free throws, while the Pirates sank 13 of 21 charity shots. Whitworth achieved a 43-37 rebounding margin, but also committed 12 turnovers, compared to only nine turnovers for the Bearcats.

Willamette's six-game winning streak was ended by the loss to the nationally-ranked Pirates. The Bearcats will return to action on Saturday, Jan. 10, when they will host Whitman College. Game time at Cone Field House is slated for 6 p.m. (PST).

Whitworth University 69
Willamette University 68
Kyler McClary earned a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds against Whitworth.

Kyler McClary earned a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds against Whitworth.

Marcus Holmes scored a career-high 14 points against the Pirates.

Marcus Holmes scored a career-high 14 points against the Pirates.