By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110
SALEM, Ore. -- Christian Seidl hit a 3-point shot from the top of the key as the clock expired to send LeTourneau University (Texas) past Willamette University, 73-72, in the season-opener for both teams on Friday, Nov. 9 at Cone Field House. The Bearcats had taken a 72-70 lead with 6.7 seconds left on two free throws by Jordan Jenkins (Sr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS). LeTourneau moved it record to 1-0, while Willamette fell to 0-1.
The Yellowjackets opened the season at Willamette after finishing 2017-18 with a 24-5 overall record and a 16-2 record in the American Southwest Conference. LeTourneau qualified for the NCAA Division III Men's Basketball Tournament this past spring.
Jenkins finished Friday's game for the Bearcats with a double-double on 15 points and 13 rebounds. Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) provided a team-high 17 points on 8 of 13 shooting. He also grabbed eight reobunds and supplied six assists. Alec Barba (So., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) matched Jenkins with 15 points, while hitting 4 of 9 three-pointers.
Justus Eaglesmith (So., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS) also reached double figures for the Bearcats with 13 points. He was 5 for 5 from the field and hit all three of his 3-point attempts. CJ Walker (Sr., P, Placentia, CA/Mayfair HS) added eight rebounds to help WU earn a 44-37 margin on the glass.
Nate West topped LeTourneau with 21 points. He was 8 of 20 from the field. Justin Moore contributed 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while achieving five boards and four assists. Caleb Loggins produced 13 points and seven rebounds. Seidl's winning 3-pointer pushed him into double-digits with 10 points. He also grabbed a team-high eight boards.
The game ended with each team shooting a similar percentage from the field, with LETU at 43.3% (29 of 67) and WU at 42.9% (27 of 63). LeTourneau was just 5 of 15 from 3-point range (33.3%) and made only 10 of 25 free throws (40.0%). The Yellowjackets hit just 6 of 18 free throws in the first half. Willamette was 10 of 26 on 3-pointers (38.5%), and the Bearcats sank all of their free throws (8 for 8), but had 17 fewer free throw attempts than LeTourneau.
Willamette trailed 63-59 with 5:50 remaining, but took a 70-65 lead with 2:30 left when Callan scored in the paint. Loggins hit a jumper with 2:13 to go, pulling the Yellowjackets within 70-67. Seidl tacked on a fast-break layup at the 1:49 mark after Moore blocked a shot by the Bearcats. Each team committed a turnover before Barba missed a 3-point shot for Willamettte with 42 seconds to go. West made the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 29 seconds left for a 70-70 tie, but he missed the second shot.
Caleb Roberts (Sr., W, Salem, OR/North HS) hauled down the rebound. With the score tied, Willamette ran down the clock. Jenkins was fouled while shooting with 6.7 seconds left. LeTourneau called timeout, but Jenkins hit both free throws.
The Yellowjackets moved down the court, and it looked like West might attempt a straight-away 3-pointer with about three seconds to go. Instead, West sent a pass several feet to his left to Seidl, who grabbed the pass and then took an open 3-pointer as the clock moved inside one second.
Willamette trailed 20-11 with 13:33 left in the first half, but the Bearcats went on a 12-2 run to take the lead. Eaglesmith completed the offensive surge with a 3-pointer that gave WU a 23-22 advantage with 6:56 remaining in the half. A bit later, LETU held a 25-23 edge at the 5:50 mark following a layup by Moore.
The Bearcats closed the first period with a 15-6 run to claim a 38-31 lead at halftime. The run opened with a 3-pointer by Barba and went on to include seven points by Callan and two from Jonathan Watts (Fr., G, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS). Barba finished the run by sinking a 3-pointer with at the buzzer.
Early in the second half, WU extended its lead to 10 points at 43-33 on another 3-pointer by Barba. LeTourneau countered with a 10-0 run to tie the score with 16:33 left. Later, the Yellowjackets trailed 50-45, but moved in front, 52-50, on a layup by Korrin Taylor as the clock ticked under 10 minutes.
WU answered with a 3-pointer by Barba for the first of six lead changes over the next several minutes. The Yellowjackets grabbed a 58-57 advantage on a layup by Moore at the 8:05 mark and increased the lead to 63-59 just over two minutes later when Moore hit the first free throw in a one-and-one.
Up next for Willamette is a game against Concordia University (Texas) on Friday, Nov. 16 at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Game time is set for 6 p.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Willamette extended a 38-31 halftime lead with a 5-2 run
to open the second half. Alec Barba completed the offensive
spurt by sinking a 3-pointer with 19:03 left in the game to
give the Bearcats a 43-33 lead. Barba finished the game with
his first career double-digit night, as he earned 15 points,
while hitting 4 of 9 three-point shots.