By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University battled #1-ranked Whitworth University before losing to the Pirates, 81-77 in overtime, on Saturday, Jan. 15 at Cone Field House. Whitworth, the top-ranked team in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25, upped its record to 14-0, including 5-0 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 4-10 overall, 1-4 in the NWC.
Christian Jurlina scored 21 points and George Valle tacked on 20 for Whitworth. Jurlina and Valle each grabbed nine rebounds. Kenny Love scored 14 points for the Pirates, while Matt Staudacher recorded 11 points and six boards.
Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) recorded 18 points and five rebounds for Willamette. Casey Thornton (So., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) added a career-high 16 points, and Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) scored 13 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, earned four assists and blocked three shots.
Also reaching double figures for the Bearcats were Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) and Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS). McCullough produced 12 points and Brown tallied 11.
The game included 11 ties and 13 lead changes, but Willamette led for much of the game. Willamette held a 37-30 lead at halftime and owned 49-41 advantage with 12:38 left.
Whitworth forced overtime when Love hit two free throws to tie the score at 69-69 with 35 seconds remaining. Thornton missed a 3-point shot for Willamette with eight seconds to go and Roach missed a 3-pointer for Whitworth with two seconds left, as the game moved into overtime.
A layup by Valle and a free throw by Jurlina gave the Pirates a 72-69 lead with 4:11 left in the extra period. Jurlina added a jumper with 3:34 on the clock, increasing the margin to 74-69.
Willamette pulled within two points at 76-74 with 1:49 remaining on a jumper and a foul shot by McCullough. Whitworth extended the lead to 79-74 on a layup by Kyle Roach with 45 seconds remaining and a free throw by Love with 21.3 seconds left.
Luedtke grabbed the rebound after Love missed the second free throw, and Troplent nailed a 3-pointer with 13 seconds on the clock to reduce the lead to 79-77. Jurlina hit two free throws for Whitworth one second later to seal the win.
Willamette shot 46.9% in the first half (15 of 32), while hitting 5 of 11 three-pointers. The Bearcats held Whitworth to 29.0% (9 of 31) on field goals in the first 20 minutes.
Even so, Whitworth led 23-19 after Love sank two free throws at the 6:08 mark. Willamette scored the next 10 points, starting with a 3-pointer by Troplent. Thornton added a jumper and a 3-pointer before Luedtke completed the run on a layup with 4:16 left in the half.
After the Bearcats took a 32-25 lead a bit later on another 3-pointer by Thornton, the Pirates tallied three consecutive points. The next five points went to Willamette on two free throws by McCullough and a shot from behind the arc by Troplent for a 37-28 advantage. Love scored the final basket of the half for Whitworth with five seconds on the clock.
Willamette retained the lead for the first nine minutes of the second half. The Bearcats scored the first two points of the half on free throws by Brown for a nine-point lead, and owned a 45-39 margin after McCullough hit a 3-pointer with 15:04 to go.
Brown's jumper at the 12:38 mark gave Willamette a 49-41 lead. Whitworth went on an 11-0 run to claim a 52-49 advantage with 10:16 left.
Whitworth's run started with a layup by Valle, who scored a total of five points during the surge. Valle's layup with 10:41 on the clock tied the game. Staudacher finished the run and gave Whitworth the lead when he was fouled while scoring on a layup and then made the ensuing free throw.
There were six ties and five lead changes during the remainder of regulation. Willamette broke a 65-65 deadlock on a layup by Troplent with 2:43 to go. Thornton increased the lead to 69-65 when he put a jump shot through the hoop as the clock reached 1:59.
Valle hit a jumper for Whitworth 14 seconds later. Neither team scored again until Love's tying free throws at the 35-second mark.
Willamette shot 42.2% for the game (27 of 64) and made 7 of 19 three-pointers (36.8%). Whitworth also convertd 27 of 64 field goals, including 51.9% in the second half (14 of 27) and 66.7% in overtime (4 of 6).
The Pirates made 3 of 14 three-point shots (21.4%) and sank 24 of 36 free throws (66.7%). Willamette connected on 16 of 21 charity shots (76.2%).
Each team committed just four turnovers in the first half. Willamette finished the game with a total of 15 turnovers, while the Pirates lost the ball 11 times. Whitworth achieved a 44-42 rebounding edge.
The Bearcats will host Whitman College on Saturday, Jan. 16. Whitman is ranked #21 in the D3hoops.com Top 25. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. (PST).