By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
NEWBERG, Ore. -- Jordan Jenkins (Jr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) and Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Guadaloupe, France/Cathedral HS) each hit the nets for 21 points, leading Willamette University to an 89-80 Northwest Conference victory over George Fox University on Friday, Jan. 26 at the Wheeler Sports Center. Jenkins also hauled down 11 rebounds for the Bearcats, who evened their overall record at 9-9, while improving to 4-5 in the NWC. George Fox dropped to 5-13 overall, 1-8 in the NWC.
It was a strong night for Jenkins and Troplent. In addition to recording a double-double in points and rebounds, Jenkins provided WU with three assists and blocked one shot. Troplent grabbed four rebounds, supplied three assists and earned two steals. Jenkins was 9 for 16 from the field, while Troplent connected on 6 of 11 shots, including 3 for 5 on 3-pointers. Troplent was 6 for 7 at the free throw line.
Nathan Sherfey (Sr., F, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS) scored 13 points for the Bearcats on 5-of-7 shooting, including a trio of 3-point baskets. Brendon McCullough (Sr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) followed closely with 12 points and a team-high three steals. Ben Sutton (Fr., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS) achieved eight points and four rebounds.
Willamette shot 54.7% overall (35 of 64), including 60.7% (17 of 28) in the first half. The Bearcats were 7 of 19 from behind the 3-point arc (36.8%) and sank 12 of 19 free throws (63.2%). Willamette put through 10 of 14 free throws in the second half, including 4 of 6 in the final 1:29 to close out the win. WU outrebounded the Bruins 39-26 and earned a 16-8 advantage on the offensive glass. The Bearcats earned 23 assists on 35 baskets, with nine players contributing at least one assist.
"Twenty-three assists on 30 baskets is a real testament to the true team nature of this win," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "Nico, Jordan and Brendon really set the tone with their play, and I thought freshmen Ben Sutton and Alec Barba (Fr., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) gave us a lift off the bench."
George Fox also shot well, converting 31 of 59 field goals (52.5%). The Bruins made 9 of 22 three-point attempts (40.9%). GFU was 9 of 14 on free throws (64.3%). The Bruins hit 17 of 28 shots in the second half (60.7%).
Mason Green-Richards topped GFU with 21 points and was 9 of 14 from the field. Thomas Rico tacked on 20 points and was 4 for 9 from 3-point range. Dylan Hamlet produced a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, plus two assists, a blocked shot and a steal. Jackson Januik finished with 10 points, three assists and a game-high five steals.
After shooting just over 60% in the first half and limiting GFU to 45.2% (14 of 31), the Bearcats held a slim 40-36 lead at the intermission.
The Bruins were in front 10-6 just over four minutes into the game following a jumper by Hamlett. Willamette scored the next nine points on the strength of one 3-pointer each by Sheerfey, Troplent and Jenkins to take a 15-10 lead with 14:14 on the clock. A bit later, the Bearcats grabbed a 24-15 advantage on a 3-pointer by Barba at the 10:37 mark.
GFU put together a 15-5 run to reduce Willamette's lead to a single point at 30-29 with 5:43 left in the half. The run included a 3-pointer by Rico and a 3-pointer from Ryan Lacey. The Bearcats tallied next five points on a laup by Jenkins and a jumper from Casey Thornton (Sr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS), but the Bruins eventually tied the game at 34-34 on a free throw by Green-Richards with 1:40 to go. WU scored six unanswered points before Green-Richards made a layup for GFU with 10 seconds remaining.
Sherfey hit a 3-point shot for Willamette just nine seconds into the second half to increase the Bearcats' lead to 43-36. Willamette never lost the lead, but the Bruins threatened to catch up. A 3-pointer from Januik with 16:16 left pulled GFU within 49-37. Later, the Bruins trailed by just four points at 57-53 after Lacey scored on a layup at the 13:05 mark.
Willamette gained a bit of breathing room by responding with an 8-0 run for a 65-53 lead. Sutton completed the run with back-to-back layups. The Bearcats eventually took a 73-57 lead with 8:39 remaining after Sherfey produced consecutive baskets on a 3-pointer and a layup. The Bruins reduced the margin to 77-67 on a laup by Rico with 5:43 on the clock, and pulled within five points twice, including 81-76 on a jumper by Green-Richards at the 3:48 mark.
Just 16 seconds later, Troplent grabbed his own rebound and scored to give WU an 83-76 lead. Neither team scored again until Troplent added a layup with 1:47 to go, which increased the margin to 85-76.
The Bearcats will play at Lewis & Clark College on Saturday, Jan. 27. Game time in Portland, Oregon, is scheduled for 7 p.m. (PST). Earlier this season, the Bearcats defeated the Pioneers 64-47 at Cone Field House.