By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University played well in many facets of the game against George Fox University on Saturday, Jan. 19 at Cone Field House. The Bearcats shot 62.7% from the field (32 of 51), sank 11 of 21 3-pointers, and placed four players in double figures, as Willamette upended the Bruins, 88-74. Senior forward Jordan Jenkins (Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) scored 21 points and tied his career high with 15 rebounds for the Bearcats.
Playing at home was a welcome occurrence for the Bearcats, who played six of their first seven Northwest Conference games on the road. Willamette improved to 5-12 on the season, 2-6 in the NWC. George Fox slipped to 10-7 overall, 4-4 in the NWC.
Jenkins has earned 20 or more points 11 times this season and has scored 10 or more points in 16 of 17 games. He has recorded 11 double-doubles. Jenkins increased his career totals to 924 points and 496 rebounds. He is four rebounds from the 500 mark. His rebounding success against GFU helped Willamette gain a 39-25 rebounding edge.
"It was so much fun to watch our guys play together and play well for 40 minutes," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said. "It was a huge statement win for us, and to have a ton of our alumni in the stands supporting us was even more special."
Willamette's strong play was especially rewarding because the Bearcats were playing their second game in as many days, while George Fox had not played since defeating Linfield College on Tuesday, Jan. 15 in a home game for the Bruins. The Bearcats lost at Lewis & Clark College, 80-73, on Friday, Jan. 18 in Portland, Oregon. WU played well in the second half against L&C, and got as close as two points in the final two minutes after trailing by 19 points with 10:06 remaining.
On Saturday against the Bruins, Jenkins was followed on the scoring chart by Jonathan Watts (Fr., G, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS). Watts earned 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and a steal. His was just two points short of his career-high of 19 set against University of Northwestern (Minn.) on Dec. 28.
Justus Eaglesmith (So., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS) and Trent Callan (Sr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) also contributed in big ways for the Bearcats. Eaglesmith scored 14 points to go along with four rebounds, five assists and a game-high four steals. He was 5 of 9 from the field, including 4 for 8 on 3-pointers. Callan ended the game with 10 points, four boards, a game-high seven assists and one steal. All 10 players who saw action for the Bearcats scored at least two points.
Mason Green-Richards paced the Bruins with 19 points. Ryan Lacey tacked on 17 points to go with four rebounds, four assists and three steals. Jackson Januik provided GFU with 13 points, four boards, three assists and four steals.
Willamette held the lead for a bit more than 37 minutes during the 40-minute game. The teams were tied for 1:52 and George Fox led for 49 seconds. The Bruins led 2-0 and later gained a 14-13 advantage on a traditional three-point play by Michael Mercado-Smith of GFU with 12:17 to go in the first half. It was the last time the Bruins were in the lead.
Ryan Peterson (So, P, Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS) put WU back in front 15-14 on a jumper at the 11:58 mark, as he started a 10-0 run by the Bearcats. Willamette owned a 23-14 margin after Dylan Streett (Fr., G, Santa Barbara, CA/Bishop Diego HS) completed the run with a 3-point basket as the clock reached 9:15.
The Bearcats secured their first double-digit lead at 29-19 on a jumper by Jenkins with 6:36 to play. Later, a 3-pointer by Alec Barba (So., W, Dallas, OR/Central HS) gave WU a 13-point margin at 36-23. Watts added the next basket with 2:52 left, as the lead reached 15 points. The Bearcats were in front 43-30 at halftime, led by Jenkins' 14 points and eight boards.
In the second half, George Fox started several rallies, but the Bearcats found an answer each time. The Bruins pushed as close as 47-41 on a layup by Januik with 15:46 remaining, only to have Willamette respond with a 9-0 run. Later, an old-fashioned three-point play by Watts increased Willamette's lead to 61-44 at the 11:35 mark.
GFU eventually pulled within 64-55 on a jumper by Green-Richards with 8:32 left. A 3-pointer by Caleb Roberts (Sr., W, Salem, OR/North HS) supplied WU with a 67-55 advantage.
The Bruins cut the deficit to eight points twice, including 70-62 on a 3-pointer from Green-Richards with 5:16 on the clock. Eaglesmith sank 3-pointers for the Bearcats with 4:23 and 3:53 remaining to squash the comeback and increase the lead to 78-64.
Willamette limited the Bruins to 40.3% shooting (27 of 67), and George Fox was 4 of 15 on 3-pointers (26.7%). At the line, WU was 13 for 17 (76.5%) and GFU sank 16 of 24 (66.7%).
The Bearcats will play at Cone Field House again on Friday, Jan. 25 against Whitman College. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. (PST).
Big Moment of the Game for Willamette
Each time it looked like George Fox might be able to mount an
extended rally in the second half, the Bearcats found a way to
regain momentum and rebuild the lead. This was especially true
when Justus Eaglesmith hit a 3-pointer for Willamette with 4:23
left in the game and then tacked on another 3-pointer with 3:52
to go. The Bruins were within 70-62 before Eaglesmith's pair of
key 3-pointers helped the Bearcats take a 78-64 lead.