By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
TACOMA, Wash. -- Willamette University rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit to tie the game with less than two minutes remaining, but University of Puget Sound prevailed 71-69 in overtime, during a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Friday, Jan. 6. After each team scored once to begin the overtime period, the Loggers put together a 6-0 run and then held on for the win.
Puget Sound advanced its record to 9-3 on the season, 2-1 in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 2-10 overall, 0-3 in the NWC.
Easton Driessen scored a game-high 25 points for Puget Sound. Kohl Meyer tacked on 14 points for the Loggers, and also provided 12 rebounds and four assists. Kyle King registered 10 points.
Willamette's top scorer was Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) with 19 points. He also contributed seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. Troplent went 5 of 14 from the field and was a perfect 9 for 9 at the free throw line.
No other Bearcats reached double figures, but Dylan Critchfield (Jr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) chipped in nine points, while Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) and Johnny Verduin (Sr./So., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) each scored eight. Trent Callan (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) earned seven ponts and grabbed five rebounds.
Verduin led WU with 10 boards and Jenkins hauled down nine rebounds. Jenkins also blocked two shots.
The Loggers began the game with six consecutive points and held a 12-4 lead with 13:37 left in the first half. A bit later, Puget Sound used a 6-1 run to build a 20-8 advantage following a layup by Meyer.
Willamette trailed 28-20 after Jenkins put in a layup for the Bearcats at the 2:54 mark, but Puget Sound scored the final six points of the half for a 34-20 advantage. Driessen started the run with a jumper. Meyer added a layup, before Driessen scored on another layup with 43 seconds remaining.
Puget Sound was in front by 14 points two more times early in the second half, and led by a 44-31 margin after King scored with 14:42 on the clock. Willamette cut the deficit with an 8-1 run, reducing Puget Sound's lead to 46-39 on a layup by Verduin with 11:47 left.
The Loggers scored the next four points to regain a double-digit lead at 50-39 following a layup by Driessen with 9:37 to go. WU tallied the next six points -- on two free throws by Troplent, a layup from Critchfield, and another piar of free throws by Trooplent -- to pull within 50-45 at the 8:30 mark.
Willamette gradually continued to rally until a 3-point basket by Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) with 4:04 remaining cut the lead to 56-54. Carlos Mancasola scored for Puget Sound 11 seconds later, and Troplent hit a jumper for WU with 3:36 to play.
Neither team scored again until Troplent sank two free throws with 1:53 remaining to create a 58-58 tie. The teams combined to miss their next five shots and the game moved into overtime.
Jeremiah Hobbs of Puget Sound completed the first possession of overtime with a layup. Jenkins countered with a put-back following an offensive rebound with 4:16 left.
The Loggers moved in front for good on a layup by Driessen 11 seconds later. Driessen also scored with 3:33 on the clock, and King put through a basket for Puget Sound with 2:55 to go, as the Loggers took a 66-60 lead.
Willamette got within 68-65 on a 3-point basket by Callan with 1:08 remaining. Driessen connected on two free throws with 15 seconds left for a 70-65 lead, but Jenkins put in a jumper as the clock reached six seconds.
Driessen made 1 of 2 free throws moments later to clinch the win. Conin Oishi (Jr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) scored for WU as time expired.
The Loggers shot 46.4% for the game (32 of 69), while the Bearcats shot 37.1% (23 of 62). WU made 3 of 14 three-pointers and Puge Sound was 0 for 14 from behind the arc.
Willamette was 20 of 29 at the free throw line, including 14 of 15 in the second half. The Bearcats, however, went 0 for 4 at the line in overtime. Puget Sound converted 7 of 11 free throws during the game, including 3 of 6 in overtime.
The Bearcats achieved a 45-38 rebounding margin. Willamette claimed 27-18 edge on the glass during the second half and overtime. WU committed 19 turnovers, while Puget Sound lost the ball 16 times.
WU will take on Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday, Jan. 7. Game time in Parkland, Washington, is set for 6 p.m. (PST)).