By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University rallied from a 10-point deficit with 3:45 left to tie Northwest Christian University, 63-63, with 58 seconds remaining, but the Beacons outscored the Bearcats 5-1 the rest of the way to grab a 68-64 win at Cone Field House on Saturday, Nov. 19. Northwest Christian improved to 5-1 on the season, while Willamette fell to 1-1.
Brendyn Taylor scored all five of NCU's points in the final minute, starting with a jumper at the 47-second mark. Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) of Willamette sank 1 of 2 free throws four seconds later to cut the Beacons' lead to 65-64. Taylor answered by hitting a jump shot from just inside the three-point line with 15 seconds remaining.
Willamette had a chance to tie the game when Casey Thornton (Jr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) took a 3-point shot with eight seconds on the clock, but Kylor Kelley, a 7'0" center, blocked the shot. Taylor tacked on a free throw for NCU with five seconds left.
The Beacons held a 37-33 advantage at halftime. They increased the margin to 56-42 with 11:22 left in the game on a layup by Jay Mayernik.
Northwest Christian was in front 61-48 with 7:26 on the clock, and later owned a 63-53 lead after Bradley Laubacher hit two free throws with less than four minutes remaining. Willamette responded with a 10-0 run.
The Bearcats started their rally on a jumper by Dylan Critchfield (Jr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) with 3:15 left. Critchfield added a layup on WU's next possession and tacked on a fifth point by sinking 1 of 2 free throws with 2:07 remaining.
Casey Thornton (Jr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) scored on a jumper at the 1:49 mark to pull the Bearcats within 63-60. Hayden Russell (Sr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) completed the comeback when he hit a 3-pointer with just under one minute to go.
Critchfield finished with a double-double for the Bearcats, as he scored 11 points and hauled down 10 rebounds. He was 5 of 8 from the field. Critchfield blocked an attempted dunk by Taylor in the second half.
Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) of Willmette led all players in scoring with 18 points, including three 3-point baskets. Thornton tallied 11 points and four blocked shots for the Bearcats, while McCullough provided eight points and five assists.
Mayernik scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 23 rebounds for Northwest Christian. He also had three assists and two steals before fouling out with 4:26 left. Taylor recorded 13 points for the Beacons. Kelley earned six points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots.
The first half included six ties and five lead changes. WU broke the game's first tie following a 3-point basket by Troplent and a layup by Critchfield to take a 12-7 lead at the 15:59 mark. The Beacons eventually tied the score at 14-14 on a 3-pointer by Jack Hackman with 14:23 remaining in the half.
Three ties later, the teams were deadlocked at 23-23 with 9:00 left. Willamette scored next on a layup by Troplent, but the Beacons answered with a 7-2 run for a 30-27 edge as the clock reached 4:30.
Willamette surged in front 31-30 with a jumper by Thornton and a layup by Jared Baumgartner (Sr., W, Albany, OR/Crescent Valley HS). Northwest Christian finished the half with a 7-2 run.
NCU scored nine of the first 11 points in the second half to take a 46-35 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining. Willamette trailed by at least nine points until the Bearcats pulled within 61-53 on a jumper by Thornton at the 4:57 mark.
For the game, Willamette shot 35.1% from the field (26 of 74) and made 6 of 19 three-pointers (31.6%). The Beacons finished 21 of 65 from the field (32.3%). NCU sank just 3 of 11 three-pointers.
The Breacons gained a sizable edge at the free throw line, where they converted 23 of 30 shots (76.7%). Willamette put through 6 of 11 free throws.
Mayernik's rebounding success helped Northwest Christian gain a 54-42 advantage on the glass. The Beacons committed 26 turnovers, while the Bearcats lost the ball 21 times. Willamette blocked eight shots.
The Bearcats will return to action on Tuesday, Nov. 22 against crosstown rival Corban University. Tipoff on the Corban campus is set for 7 p.m. (PST).