By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Montana Institute of Technology held a slim 63-61 lead with 6:47 left, but the Orediggers outscored Willamette University 14-5 the rest of the way to earn a 77-66 victory in an exhibition game for the Bearcats at Cone Field House on Friday, Oct. 26. Michigan Tech was led by Taylor England, who scored a game-high 36 points, while hitting 12 of 13 field goals and 12 of 14 free throws. Caleb Roberts (Sr., W, Salem, OR/North HS) topped Willamette with 16 points and sank 4 of 7 three-point shots.
The game counted as a regular season game for Montana Tech, which moved to 2-0 on the season. For Willamette, the exhibition game did not count toward its regular season record. The Bearcats will open the regular season by hosting LeTourneau University (Texas) at Cone Field House on Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. (PDT).
England was one of two Orediggers in double figures. He also grabbed eight rebounds and had six steals. Troy Owens scored 11 points and recorded seven rebounds for Montana Tech. Nate Ward achieved four assists and four steals. The Orediggers acquired 15 steals overall.
Roberts was followed by Jordan Jenkins (Sr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) on WU's scoring chart. Jenkins produced 14 points, hauled down eight rebounds and supplied six assists. Justus Eaglesmith (Fr., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS) tallied 12 points and was 4 for 6 on three-point attempts.
Willamette trailed 10-8, but took the lead on a 3-pointer by Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) with 14:11 on the clock. The Bearcats held a 16-10 margin a bit later, and eventually led 22-15 on a 3-pointer by Roberts at the 11:26 mark. Montana Tech battled back with an 8-0 run to take a 23-22 lead with 9:52 left in the half. The score was close for the remainder of the half, with the Orediggers holding a 40-38 margin at the break.
A layup by CJ Walker (Sr., P, Placentia, CA/Mayfair HS) and a three-pointer by Alec Barba (So., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) allowed WU to surge into a 43-40 lead with 17:52 remaining in the game. Montana Tech moved in front 44-43 just 29 seconds later following two free throws by England and a layup by Ward. The Orediggers went on to grab a 52-48 edge on a layup by Owens.
The Bearcats forced a 54-54 tie at the 12:16 mark on a traditional three-point play by Jenkins. WU led 58-57 with 9:19 left on a layup by Roberts. England scored the next basket on a jumper in the paint with 8:02 to go, and Montana Tech held the lead the rest of the way.
Willamette trailed 67-61 with 5:11 on the clock after England sank a layup. The Bearcats were within 69-65 on two free throws by Roberts with 4:27 remaining, but couldn't get closer. Montana Tech closed the game with an 8-1 run.
For the game, Montana Tech shot 49.1% from the field (27 of 55) and 27.3% from 3-point range (3 of 11). The Orediggers hit a solid 20 of 23 shots at the free throw line (87.0%). Willamette connected on 49.0% of its shots from the field (24 of 49). The Bearcats sank 11 of 18 three-pointers (61.1%), including 7 of 10 in the first half. Willamette was 7 of 9 on three throws.