By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Whitman College, ranked #21 in the D3hoops.com Top 25, never trailed, but the Missionaries were in a battle nearly the entire night, before outscoring Willamette University 26-15 in the final 10:04 to defeat the Bearcats 80-67 on Saturday, Jan. 16 at Cone Field House.
With the win, Whitman upped its record to 13-2 overall, 5-1 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette fell to 4-11 overall, 1-5 in the NWC. It was the Bearcats' second consecutive game against a nationally ranked team. On Friday, the Bearcats lost to #1-ranked Whitworth University, 81-77 in overtime.
In Saturday's game, Austin Butler led the Missionaries with 18 points and nine rebounds. Tochi Oti and Tim Howell each added 12 points. Oti recorded a game-high six steals.
Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) topped Willamette with 13 points. Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) scored 12 points, while Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) earned 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot.
The Bearcats were hurt by 29 turnovers which led to 30 points for the Missionaries. Whitman lost possession just nine times, leading to 11 points for Willamette.
Whitman gained a 40-33 rebounding edge, including 19 offensive boards. Five of Butler's nine boards were on the offensive glass. JoJo Wiggins also hauled down nine rebounds for Whitman.
Howell and Oti each sank a 3-point basket in the first 1:30 to give Whitman a 6-0 lead. The Bearcats countered with an 8-2 run that included one 3-pointer by Harlington and ended with a trifecta by McCullough to tie the score with 16:13 to go in the half.
The teams exchanged the next two baskets for another tie at 10-10, before Whitman went on a 6-0 run. A bit later, Whitman held a 23-16 lead with 9:54 on the clock following a jumper by Evan Martin.
Willamette had to chase the Missionaries the rest of the half, but reduced the deficit to 29-27 with 4:18 remaining on a 3-pointer by Troplent assisted by Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy).
The Bearcats were within a single point at 35-34 after Troplent hit a jump shot with 1:04 left. Montez White of Whitman connected on 1 of 2 free throws with 46 second on the clock, giving the Missionaries a 36-34 halftime edge.
Whitman used 9-2 run at the start of the second half to grab a 45-36 lead. Butler contributed five points during the run.
Casey Thornton (So., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) of Willamette put in a 3-pointer with 15:15 remaining to get the Bearcats within four points at 48-44. The score remained close over the next five minutes, with WU reducing the margin to two points on four occasions.
The Bearcats appeared to have momentum after Baumgartner cut the margin to 52-50 on a steal followed by a dunk with 11:39 on the clock. After Cedric Jacobs-Jones of Whitman made a jump shot, Baumgartner responded by scoring a layup with 10:56 left, pulling WU within 54-52.
Oti scored next, putting in two free throws for the Missionaries with 10:04 to go. Whitman extended the lead with six more points for a 62-52 advantage with 9:10 remaining.
For the game, Willamette shot 51.1% from the field (24 of 47), but couldn't overcome Whitman's advantage in turnovers and offensive rebounds. The Bearcats sank 10 of 15 three-pointers (66.7%) and converted 9 of 16 free throws (56.3%).
Whitman took 27 more shots than Willamette and finished 31 of 74 from the field (41.9%), including 5 of 17 (29.4%) on 3-pointers. The Missionaries were 13 for 22 (59.1%) at the free throw line.
The Bearcats will play NWC rival George Fox University at Cone Field House on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Game time is schedule for 8 p.m. (PST).