Dart, Manu each score 11 points for Willamette
BILLINGS, MONT. -- Willamette University scored the game's first six points, but Rocky Mountain College responded with an 11-0 run and never looked back, en route to an 83-59 victory over the Bearcats on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The Battlin' Bears, who compete in NAIA Division I, improved to 7-3 on the season, while Willamette, which competes in NCAA Division III, dropped to 2-4. The Bearcats concluded their two-day Montana road trip with an 0-2 record.
The Bearcats jumped out to an early 6-0 lead behind two buckets from Avery Manu (Jr., Wing, Pocatello, Id/Highland HS) and one basket from Terrell Malley (Sr., Guard, Portland, OR/Roosevelt HS). Rocky Mountain answered with 11 straight points, taking the lead at 9-6 on a bucket and foul shot from Matt Strickland with 13:50 left in the first half.
Willamette tied the game at 11-11 on a field goal from Sean Dart(Sr., Post, Bend, OR/Mountain View HS/Eastern Oregon Univ.) at the 12:38 mark. The Battlin' Bears, however, reclaimed the lead for good just 14 seconds later on a Joel Barndt bucket.
The Bearcats stayed within striking distance over the next eight minutes and pulled within 27-21 on another basket by Manu with 4:21 left. RMC went on a 15-4 run to close the first half and took a 42-25 lead into the break.
Despite the Battlin' Bears stretching their lead to as many as 18 points early in the second half, Dart and Manu helped keep the Bearcats' deficit manageable, closing the gap to 45-31 just under four minutes into the half. RMC responded with a pair of buckets from Jeremy Nicholas and Malachi Roberts to restore an 18-point lead.
Rocky Mountain's lead ballooned to as many as 25 in the later stages of the game, as Willamette was unable to make a lengthy run to get back into the game.
Dart scored 11 points while pulling down eight rebounds to lead Willamette. Manu also scored 11 points, and was the only other Bearcat in double figures. Noah Ripley(Jr., Post, Springfield, OR/Springfield HS) earned six points and six boards.
Malley, who led Willamette in scoring average (12.5 points per game) entering the contest, was held to just six points on 3 of 14 shooting.
Rocky Mountain placed four of its five starters in double figures, led by Barndt's 18 points and 10 rebounds. Don Parham scored 14 points for the Battlin' Bears, while Roberts added 11, and Nicholas contributed 10.
The Bearcats struggled from the field, particularly in the first half, as Rocky Mountain held WU to just 29% shooting from the field (9 of 31). Willamette finished the game at 34.8% shooting (23 of 66), including 2 of 18 on three point attempts (11.1%).
Rocky Mountain connected on 15 of 30 shots (50.0%) in the first half, and finished the game at 47.5% shooting (28 of 59). The Battlin' Bears also connected on 8 of 17 three point attempts (47.1%) and earned 29 trips to the free throw line, making 19 charity shots (65.5%). The Bearcats sank 11 of 17 free throw attempts (64.7%).
The Bearcats will return to action on Tuesday, Dec. 4, for an early-season Northwest Conference game at archrival Linfield College. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (PST) at Ted Wilson Gymnasium in McMinnville, Ore. There will be an audio broadcast of the game on the Bearcat Network, found athttp://www.willamette.edu/athletics/bearcatnetwork/live/index.php.