By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
ORANGE, Calif. -- Willamette University rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to take a one-point lead midway through the period, but Chapman University regained the lead and held off the Bearcats for a 72-62 win on Friday, Nov. 20. The Panthers improved to 2-0 on the season, while Willamette fell to 1-2.
Chapman was led by Rob Nelson with 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting -- all from 3-point range. Willamette's Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) scored 10 points, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, earned three assists, blocked two shots and had one steal.
Willamette trailed 47-35 with 15:34 to go, but rallied to take a 53-52 lead on a layup and foul shot by Matt Billingsley-Peeler (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) with 9:58 left in the game.
The Bearcats were within 65-62 with 1:36 remaining after Dylan Critchfield (So., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) added another traditional 3-point play. Chapman closed the game with a 7-0 run by hitting a layup and 5 of 6 free throws. Ben Cohen took all six free throws.
Cohen made 1 of 2 charity shots with 1:25 on the clock to give Chapman a 66-62 lead. Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) of WU missed a layup with 1:00 remaining, gabbed his own rebound, and missed a jumper.
Davis Dragovich rebounded the ball and scored at the other end of the court to give the Panthers a 68-62 edge. Cohen hit 4 of 4 free throws the rest of the way.
The first half featured two ties and four lead changes. Chapman led for much of the half, but Willamette held a 29-25 advantage after Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) sank a 3-pointer with 4:17 remaining.
Chapman answered with a 12-0 run, including six points by Luke Hamlin and four by Cohen, to take a 37-29 lead. Casey Thornton (So., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) of Willamette scored the final basket of the half on a jumper with 1:06 left to cut the margin to 37-31.
The Panthers surged out to a 45-33 advantage with 16:33 remaining in the game on the strength of an 8-0 run after Luedtke scored the first basket of the half for Willamette. Chapman's run featured two 3-pointers by Rob Nelson. After each team added another basket, the Panthers held their final 12-point margin.
WU pulled within 48-45 with 12:34 to go when Nathan Sherfey (So., W, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS) connected on a 3-pointer. The Bearcats tied the game at 50-50 on a jumper by Critchfield with 10:47 left. Tyler Green moved Chapman in front by two points with a layup, but Billingsley-Peeler's three-point play gave the Bearcats a 53-52 advantage.
James Taylor hit the first of two free throws at the 9:23 mark and Dragovich made the second of two additional free throws three seconds later to give Chapman the lead for good at 54-53. Even so, the Panthers were never in front by more than six points until the final minute.
Chapman shot 43.1% for the game (25 of 58), including 42.1% from 3-point range (8 of 19). The Panthers held Willamette to 31.9% shooting (22 of 69). The Bearcats made just 27.5% of their shots in the second half (11 of 40).
The Bearcats were 5 of 23 on 3-pointers (21.7%) and connected on 13 of 18 free throws (72.2%). Chapman made just 14 of 29 charity shots (48.3%).
Joining Nelson in double figures for Chapman was Cohen, who finished with 11 points. He was 3 for 3 from the field. Hamlin earned eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds. Taylor recorded nine points and blocked three shots.
Luedtke was the only Bearcat with double-digit scoring. Russell scored nine points and Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) added eight. Critchfield grabbed seven rebounds.
Willamette will play at University of La Verne on Saturday, Nov. 21 in La Verne, California. Game time is set for 7 p.m. (PST).