By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
WHITTIER, Calif. -- Chapman University shot 64.8% from the field and placed five players in double figures, as the Panthers defeated Willamette University, 94-78, in the championship game of the Poet Classic at Whittier College on Wednesday, Dec. 30. Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) was the top scorer for the Bearcats with 14 points on 7 of 9 field goals.
The Panthers built a 50-37 lead in the first half, while connecting on 20 of 29 shots (69.0%). Chapman hit 35 of 54 shots during the game.
Willamette shot 45.8% in the first half (15 of 33) and 51.7% in the second half (15 of 29), but couldn't keep pace, as the Panthers improved to 7-2 on the season. Willamette, which lost to Chapman 72-62 on Nov. 20 in Orange, California, fell to 3-8.
Cam Haslam of Chapman led all players with 27 points. He was 10 of 18 from the field and 3 of 4 on 3-point shots. He also recorded three assists and three steals.
Luke Hamlin tacked on 20 points for the Panthers. He connected on 7 of 9 field goals, and finished the game with seven rebounds, three assists and one steal.
James Taylor provided 15 points and a team-high eight rebounds for CU. Rob Nelson tallied 14 points and led the Panthers with four 3-pointers. David Dragovich scored 10 points on 3 of 3 field goals and 4 for 4 at the free throw line.
In addition to leading the Bearcats in scoring, Luedtke contributed a game-high nine rebounds. Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) sank 4 of 8 field goals and 2 of 3 three-pointers for 11 points. Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) scored 10 points and hauled down three boards.
Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS), who registered a career-high 22 points for Willamette in the first round of the Poet Classic against Whittier, was limited by Chapman to seven points on 1 of 2 field goals and 5-for-5 free throw shooting.
Troplent gave WU a 3-0 lead when he sank a 3-point shot 32 seconds into the game. Chapman tied the scored with a 3-pointer by Nelson with 19:10 to go.
The Panthers moved in front 5-3 and 8-5, but Brown pulled the Bearcats within 8-7 on a jumper with 17:38 on the clock. Chapman answered with a 7-0 run that ended with a 3-pointer by Haslam, giving the Panthers a 15-7 advantage.
Chapman extended the margin to 25-14 on a layup by Taylor with 11:18 left. Willamette scored next on a 3-pointer by Nathan Sherfey (So., W, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS), but CU tallied eight unanswered points for a 33-17 lead with 8:36 remaining in the half.
WU pulled within nine points at 46-37 following a layup and a foul shot by Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) at the 54-second mark. Chapman scored the final four points of the half.
A 17-10 run by the Panthers to begin the second half -- ending with a 3-pointer by Nelson -- gave Chapman a 67-47 lead with 14:06 left. CU remained in control the rest of the way. Willamette eventually cut the deficit to 14 points as the game entered the final minute.
The Bearcats committed 14 turnovers and Chapman lost the fall 12 times, but the Panthers achieved a 27-11 advantage in points off turnovers. The Panthers claimed a slim 44-42 margin on points in the paint and outrebounded the Bearcats, 30-26.
Willamette will return to action on Friday, Jan. 8 at the University of Puget Sound. Game time in Tacoma, Washington, is set for 8 p.m. (PST). The Bearcats will host archrival Linfield College on Saturday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. in Cone Field House.