Whitman Outlasts Willamette, 65-59, in NWC Men's Basketball Opener

Bearcats Build 14-point Lead, but Missionaries Rally in Final 16 Minutes

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University led by three points at halftime and built a 46-32 lead with 16:05 remaining, but Whitman College rallied to defeat the Bearcats, 65-59, in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams on Friday, Jan. 3 at Cone Field House.

The teams were tied 55-55 with 8:05 remaining, but Whitman outscored Willamette 10-4 the rest of the way.

Even so, WU trailed by just one point, 60-59, following a layup by Avery Manu (Sr., Wing, Pocatello, ID/Highland HS) with 4:26 left, but neither team scored for nearly four minutes. Whitman closed out the win by earning five points in the final 39 seconds.

Tochi Oti and Philip Chircu scored 13 points each for Whitman. Evan Martin provided 12 points and nine rebounds for the Missionaries, while Duckworth and Matt Mounier contributed 11 points apiece.

Manu put in 16 points to lead Willamette. He was 8 of 15 from the field. Alex Hansen (Sr., Wing, Reno, NV/Galena HS) finished with 11 points, while Brandon Luedtke (So., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) scored eight points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

With the win, Whitman improved to 6-4 on the season, 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette dropped to 2-8 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.

For most of the first 25 minutes, Willamette held the lead as the result of a tenacious defense plus balanced scoring on offense.

WU led 8-2 after four minutes with baskets from four of the five starters. Following two free throws by Alex Brown (Jr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) at the 13:41 mark, the Bearcats owned a 15-6 lead.

The Missionaries eventually tied the score at 21-21 on a 3-pointer by Duckworth with 7:15 on the clock, but Willamette answered with a 6-0 run.

Whitman rallied again to take a 31-30 lead with 2:13 remaining in the half, but a layup by Joseph Jackson (Jr., Wing, Hillsboro, OR/Hillsboro HS) with 45 seconds left and a fast-break layup by Manu with one second left following a missed shot by Whitman gave the Bearcats a 34-31 halftime margin.

Hansen recorded eight points in the first half for WU. Manu, Brown and Kyle McNally (Jr., F, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) each tallied six points.

Willamette opened the second period with a 12-1 run to extend the lead to 14 points.

Hansen sank a 3-pointer to begin the offensive surge. After Martin hit 1 of 2 free throws for Whitman, the Bearcats added two layups by Manu and a pair of free throws by Talanoa Smith (Jr., G, Pago Pago, American Samoa/Tafuna HS) to take a 42-32 lead at the 16:30 mark.

A turnover by the Missionaries on the next possession led to a 3-pointer by Willamette freshman guard Hayden Russell (Woodland CA/Da Vinci HS) as the Bearcats took a 46-32 advantage.

Whitman countered with a 7-0 run to cut the margin to seven points at 46-39 with 13:43 left. Clay Callahan scored on a jump shot. Chircu added two free throws and a 3-pointer, with both opportunities set up by Willamette turnovers.

The Missionaries pulled within 50-46 with 11:06 left on a 3-pointer by Mounier. Brown tacked on a free throw for Willamette when Mounier was called for a technical foul following the basket. Callahan hit a 3-pointer for Whitman with 9:53 remaining and Duckworth added a layup at the 9:23 mark for a 51-51 tie.

WU and Whitman were tied two more times before Manu gave the Bearcats a 57-55 lead on a layup with 7:13 to go after an offensive rebound by McNally. Mounier responded with a 3-pointer at the 6:44 mark and Oti hit a jumper with 4:39 to go, as Whitman claimed a 60-57 lead.

After Manu's layup 13 seconds later, both teams were unable to score until Duckworth made the first of two free throws with 39 seconds left. Martin grabbed the rebound when Duckworth missed the second shot.

Two fouls later, Willamette had six team fouls. Whitman sent the ball in-bounds to Duckworth, who slashed behind the defense for a layup and a 63-59 lead with 24 seconds left.

Manu missed on a driving layup on Willamette's next possession, and Martin sank two free throws with 11 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Whitman shot 38.6% (22 of 57) for the game, made 8 of 22 three-point attempts (36.4%) and hit 13 of 17 free throws (76.5%). The Missionaries recorded 30 points from 20 Willamette turnovers.

The Bearcats shot 50.0% (14 of 28) in the first half and hit 40.9% of their field goals in the second half (9 of 22) to finish at 46.0% overall.

WU connected on 4 of 11 three-pointers (36.4%) and went 9 for 12 at the free throw line. The Bearcats achieved a 33-31 rebounding edge and scored 12 points on 12 turnovers by Whitman.

Willamette will host Whitworth University on Saturday, Jan. 4 in another NWC game. Tipoff at Cone Field House is set for 6 p.m. (PST).
BOX SCORE

Whitman College 65
Willamette University 59

Post-game Interview

Brandon Luedtke led all players with 12 rebounds. He also scored eight points and recorded a team-high four assists.

Brandon Luedtke led all players with 12 rebounds. He also scored eight points and recorded a team-high four assists.