By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Whitman College placed four starters in double figures as the Blues defeated Willamette University, 61-46, in a battle of undefeated women's basketball teams on the opening night of Northwest Conference action at Cone Field House on Friday, Dec. 2. Whitman, upped its record to 6-0 on the season, 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 5-1 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.
The Blues scored the first 12 points of the game and led 34-25 at halftime. The Bearcats got as close as seven points at 43-36 with 1:59 left in the third quarter.
Whitman entered the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and remained in front by at least nine points the rest of the way. The Blues received points in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25, but were not ranked.
Alysse Ketner topped Whitman with 15 points, while Emily Rommel scored 12 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Marisa Hamilton (Sr./Jr., F, Beaverton, OR/Southridge HS) provided Willamette with 13 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Alex Wert (Sr., F, Spokane, WA/St. George's HS) earned eight points and a team-high seven boards.
Ketner, Rommel and Casey Poe each scored four points as Whitman took its 12-0 lead with 4:21 left in the first quarter. Kylie Towry (Sr./Jr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) scored Willamette's first points on a layup at the 3:49 mark.
Mary Eckenrode (Jr., G, Higley, AZ/Highland HS) added a 3-pointer for the Bearcats 25 seconds later, to cut the lead to 12-5. Whitman extended the margin to 11 points, but Willamette ended the quarter with 4-1 run, leaving the Blues with a 17-9 advantage.
The Blues took a 24-11 lead with 8:03 left in the half on a jumper by Maegen Martin. Whitman achieved similar margins two more times in the second quarter, including 33-20 following a layup by Makana Stone with 2:41 on the clock. Each time, Willamette recorded the next basket.
Whitman was in front 34-22 after Stone hit 1 of 2 free throws with 0:42 remaining before halftime. The Bearcats reduced the lead to nine points when Drew Farmer (Fr., PG, Brookings, OR/Brookings-Harbor HS) sank a 3-pointer as time expired.
Wert scored on a jumper to give Willamette the first point of the second half and pull WU within 34-27. The Blues countered with a 9-0 run to take a 43-27 led with 5:40 left in the third quarter. Poe scored four points during the run.
The Bearcats responded with a 9-0 run of their own that included a 3-pointer by Ashley Evans Jr., PG, Canby, OR/Canby HS) and ended with a layup by Hamilton at the 1:59 mark. Hamilton's basket reduced Whitman's lead to 43-36.
Whitman took a 48-38 advantage into the final quarter, but Willamette cut the margin to 50-41 with 7:21 left on a 3-pointer by Sarah Heinly (Fr., G, Bend, OR/Summit HS). Whitman scored the next six points, including two baskets by Ketner, to claim a 56-41 lead with 4:07 to go.
For the game, Whitman shot 40.4% (23 fo 57) and made 4 of 8 three-pointers. The Blues went 11 of 14 (78.6%) at the free throw line.
Willamette shot 30.4% from the field (17 of 56), including 5 of 24 from 3-point range (20.8%). WU converted 7 of 8 free throws.
Whitman gained a 43-29 rebounding advantage. Willamette forced the Blues into 12 turnovers, while WU lost the ball 11 times.
The Bearcats will play at home again on Saturday, Dec. 3 against Whitworth University in another NWC game. Tipoff between the Willamette and the Pirates is set for 4 p.m. (PST).