Bearcats Can't Hold Halftime Advantage, Fall to La Verne

Manu, Hansen, Brown and Luedtke Reach Double Figures for Willamette

By Timothy Walsh, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

LA VERNE, CALIF. -- The University of La Verne trailed by two points at halftime, but connected on a three-pointer to open the second half and never looked back, as the Leopards defeated the Willamette University Bearcats, 70-64, on Saturday, Nov. 16 at La Verne's Sports Pavilion in La Verne, Calif.

La Verne improved to 2-0 on the year, having earned a 72-63 overtime victory against Pacific University on Friday, Nov. 15. Willamette dropped to 0-2.

The Leopards' Brett Stephan led all players in scoring with 27 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including a remarkable 5 for 7 on 3-point shots. Stephan was also 6 for 6 on free throw attempts. Ronn See added 15 points for La Verne, connecting on 9 of 10 attempts from the charity stripe.

Four Bearcats reached double figures. Avery Manu (Sr., W, Pocatello, ID/Highland HS) topped Willamette with 16 points, shooting an efficient 7 of 10 from the field. Alex Hansen (Sr., W, Reno, NV/Galena HS) provided WU with 11 points.

Alex Brown (Jr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) and Brandon Luedtke (So., F, Meridian, ID/Mt. View HS) each scored 10 points, while Luedtke also added seven rebounds.

The Leopards scored the game's first basket on a three-pointer by Stephan and stretched their lead to as many as six, but Willamette rallied to take a 16-14 lead on a Hansen layup at the 8:53 mark.

La Verne tied the game twice in the final minutes of the first half, with Weston Newell knotting the score at 28 with just 46 seconds remaining in the half. With 8 seconds left, however, Luedtke scored after rebounding Brown's missed jumper, giving the Bearcats a 30-28 halftime lead.

Just over two minutes into the second half, however, another Stephan three-pointer gave the Leopards a lead they would not relinquish. A 9-2 spurt extended La Verne's advantage to 10, capped by Kendall McClain's three-pointer with 13:15 remaining.

Still, Willamette rallied. Seven quick points, including an old-fashioned three-point play from Luedtke, cut the Leopards' lead to 49-46 at the 11:42 mark, and the Bearcats narrowed the deficit to just a single point when Manu canned a jumper with 3:51 left.

Clinging to a 57-56 lead, La Verne's defense tightened, limiting Willamette to just a pair of free throws from Brown over the following 3:17. In the meantime, Stephan's jumper pushed the lead back to seven with 57 seconds remaining.

The Leopards connected on 5 of 6 free throws over the game's final 30 seconds to ice the contest.

The Bearcats shot a blistering 54.2% (13 of 24) in the first half, but cooled off considerably to 38.5% (10 of 26) in the second half. WU shot 40.6% (23 of 50) for the game. For the second straight matchup, Willamette struggled from beyond the arc, hitting just 1 of 9 attempts (11.1%).

The Bearcats did hit 81.0% of their free throw attempts (17-21).

La Verne connected on 46.3% of its shots (19 of 41), including 10 of 20 (50.0%) in the second half. The Leopards also hit 9 of 19 three-pointers (47.4%) and nailed a stellar 88.5% of their foul shots (23 of 26).

Willamette's pressure defense did force La Verne into 20 turnovers, though the Leopards also earned 14 assists. The Bearcats committed 18 turnovers against just 2 assists.

Willamette will host Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on Saturday, Nov. 23 at Cone Field House. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE

University of La Verne 70
Willamette University 64

Avery Manu scored 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting in Willamette's 70-64 loss at La Verne.

Avery Manu scored 16 points on 7 of 10 shooting in Willamette's 70-64 loss at La Verne.