Bearcats Rally from 15 Down, Edge Boxers 70-69 on Basket with 6.7 Seconds Left

Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS)
Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

FOREST GROVE, Ore. -- Willamette University trailed Pacific University by 15 points with just under 10 minutes left, but the Bearcats rallied to defeat the Boxers, 70-69, on a basket by Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) with 6.7 seconds left, at the Stoller Center on Saturday, Jan. 21. Willamette improved to 3-14 on the season. 1-7 in the Northwest Conference. Pacific fell to 9-7 overall, 3-5 in the NWC.

Pacific owned its largest lead at 56-41 on a driving layup by D.J. Christian with 9:53 remaining.

Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) started the rally with two free throws. Nico Troplent (Jr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) then created a tap-away steal and turned it into a layup with 9:02 left, as the Bearcats cut the lead to 56-45.

A free throw by CJ Walker (So., P, Placentia, CA/Mayfair HS) moved WU within 10 points at 56-46. Pacific scored next for a 58-46 lead, but momentum was shifting Willamette's way.

Willamette scored 13 of the next 18 points and pulled within four points at 63-59 on a 3-pointer by Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) with 3:13 left. WU added 3-pointers by Trent Callan (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) and Tropent to offset a free throw by Michael Joseph and a layup by Lane Josi, as WU moved within 66-65.

The Bearcats took a 68-66 lead on another 3-pointer by Thornton with 44 seconds left. J.B. Ewell hit 1 of 2 free throws for Pacific with 28.2 seconds to go, and then gave the Boxers a 69-68 lead when he sank a 6-foot jumper with 18.7 seconds on the clock.

Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) Once Willamette crossed the mid-court stripe following Ewell's jumper, the Bearcats sent the ball to McCullough in the right corner. McCullough drove toward the basket and put in a layup for the final lead change. It was his only basket of the game.

The Boxers missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left and a 13-foot follow shot at the buzzer.

Thornton led Willamette with 16 points. Troplent, whose steal and layup seemed to fuel Willamette's comeback, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds. Jenkins scored 14 points and hauled down six rebouinds.

Ewell topped Pacific with 20 points. He also earned nine rebounds. Davis Holly added 16 points, while K.C. Harrison achieved 11 points. Nate Olowo was credited with 10 rebounds, and Joseph recorded nine rebounds.

The Bearcats put in the game's first seven points on a 3-pointer by Jenkins, a layup by Trent Callan and a basket by Walker. WU led 8-2 after Jenkins hit 1 of 2 free throws at the 14:05 mark.

Pacific recorded the next nine points to take an 11-8 lead on a fast-break layup by Ewell with 11:17 to go in the half. WU tied the game a bit later at 15-15 on a 3-pointer by Conin Oishi.

The Boxers went on a 7-0 run for a 22-15 advantage and eventually led 25-18 following a baseline layup and foul shot by Ewell. Willamette countered by scoring eight of the next nine points.

Thornton scored all eight points for the Bearcats during the run. First he hit a pair of 3-pointers. Then, after Josi sank a free throw for Pacfiic, Thornton completed the run on a jumper to tie the score, 26-26, with 2:24 remaining in the half.

The Boxers opened the second half with a 32-30 advantage. Jenkins scored first on a free throw for the Bearcats to cut the lead to a single point, but Pacific answered with an 18-6 run for a 50-37 lead as the clock reached 13:43 remaining. The run featured seven points by Holly and six points from Joseph.

For the game, Willamette outshot the Boxers and earned a 27-14 lead in bench scoring. Pacific held a 45-29 rebounding edge -- 19-6 on the offensive boards -- and created an 18-4 margin in second-chance points.

The Bearcats hit 46.0% from the field (46.0%), including 12 of 24 in the second half. WU was 8 of 14 on 3-pointers (57.1%).

Pacific shot 37.7% overall (23 of 61) and was 4 for 15 from 3-point range. The Boxers converted 19 of 26 free throws (73.1%), while Willamette finished 16 for 23 (69.6%) at the free throw line.

Willamette's next game is scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27 against nationally-ranked Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington. Tipoff for the Northwest Conference match-up is set for 8 p.m. (PST). Whitworth is ranked #6 in the Top 25.