By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Tim Howell scored 25 points and Whitman College held off a rally by Willamette University in the second half, as the Blues outscored the Bearcats, 80-65, on Friday, Dec. 2 at Cone Field House. Willamette pulled within six points at 57-51 with 7:13 remaining, but the Blues surged away with a 23-14 run to end the game.
Whitman, ranked #5 in the D3hoops.com Top 25, advanced its record to 4-0, including 1-0 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette moved to 1-5 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.
Howell led all players in scoring. The Blues also received double-digit efforts from three other players. Cedric Jacobs-Jones tallied 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds. JoJo Wiggins and Joey Hewitt each chipped in 11 points. Wiggins also grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots.
For the Bearcats, Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) put through 15 points on 5 of 9 shooting, including 2 for 2 on 3-pointers. Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) scored 12 points and hauled down six rebounds.
Jenkins also blocked two shots and earned three assists. Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) finished with a team-high seven boards.
Willamette scored the first three points of the game on a layup by Thornton and a free throw by Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS). Whitman moved past the Bearcats with a 10-0 run that included four points each by Howell and Hewitt.
The Bearcats replied with a 7-2 run. Johnny Verduin (Sr./So., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) hit a jumper with 12:48 on the clock to complete the run and pull the Bearcats within 12-10.
Whitman took a 22-12 lead on a jumper by Jacobs-Jones with 10:16 left in the half. WU cut the margin to eight points twice, including 24-16 on a basket by Dylan Critchfield (Jr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) with 9:04 to go.
The next 11 points were scored by Whitman, as the Blues expanded their advantage to 35-16. Whitman held a 41-26 lead at halftime.
Willamette trailed 51-37 with 13:47 remaining in the game after Howell connected on a jumper for Whitman. The Bearcats registered the next seven points to reduce the deficit to 51-44 as the clock reached 11:21. Willamette's run started with a 3-pointer by Jenkins, continued with two free throws by Conin Oishi (Jr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS), and ended with a layup by Jenkins.
The Blues eventually claimed a 57-46 margin on a pair of free throws by Howell with 8:30 left. Willamette countered with five unanswered points by McCullough -- on a 3-point basket and a layup -- to get within 57-51 with 7:13 remaining.
A 5-0 run gave Whitman a 62-51 lead. Willamette recorded the next basket, but then the Blues went on a 12-4 offensive surge for a 74-57 advantage at the 3:37 mark.
Willamette shot just 31.4% (11 of 35) in the first half, but improved to 46.2% (12 of 26) over the final 20 minutes. The Bearcats finished the game 4 of 19 on 3-pointers.
Whitman connected on 45.6% of its field goals (31of 68). The Blues gained a slim 43-42 rebounding lead. Whitman committed just seven turnovers, while forcing Willemette into 15 turnovers.
The Bearcats will host #8-ranked Whitworth University on Saturday, Dec. 3 at Cone Field House. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. (PST).