Boxers Rally from Halftime Deficit to Outscore Bearcats in Men's Basketball, 92-81

Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled)
Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled)

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific University rallied from a 45-35 halftime deficit by shooting 65.5% in the second half, including 6 for 7 on 3-point attempts, as the Boxers downed Willamette University, 92-81, in a Northwest Conference game on Saturday, Jan. 30. K.C. Harrison led the Boxers with 17 points -- all in the second half.

Pacific advanced its record to 10-9 for the season, 4-6 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 6-13 overall, 3-7 in the NWC.

Each team placed five players in double figures, including all five starters for Willamette. Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) tied a career-high with 22 points for the Bearcats. He also scored 22 against Colorado College on Dec. 30, 2014.

Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) contributed 17 points for Willamette, while Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) tacked on 12 points. Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) put in 12 points, and Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) finished with 10.

Luedtke, Troplent and McCullough each hauled down six rebounds. The trio also blocked one shot apiece.

Following Harrison on Pacific's offensive chart was DeVon Pouncey with 16 points. J.J. Spitler supplied 13 points, while Bobby Ahern earned 12 and Daniel Gunther produced 11.

The Boxers received additional scoring from Michael Joseph and Skyler Burgess, with each chipping in nine points. Burgess also led the Boxers with 10 rebounds, helping Pacific attain a 41-32 rebounding edge.

Willamette kept the lead for most of the first half. Harlington opened the scoring with a four-point play on a 3-point basket and a foul shot just 38 seconds into the game. Pacific achieved five unanswered points to take its only lead of the half at 5-4 on a layup by Nate Olowo.

An 8-0 run by the Bearcats followed Olowo's basket, as Willamette grabbed a 12-5 advantage. The run included a traditional three-point play by Brown, plus a 3-point basket by Harlington.

Pacific tied the game a bit later at 14-14 on a 3-point shot by Spitler with 13:06 left in the half. A jumper by Brown and a layup from Luedtke gave WU an 18-14 edge, and the Bearcats remained in front until the halftime break. Luedtke put in a layup with 22 seconds left to give Willamette a 45-35 lead.

WU led by 10 points once again at 47-37 after Brown sank two free throws with 18:39 to go in the game. Pacific cut the margin to two points at 49-47 following a 10-2 run that ended with a layup by Michael Joseph at the 15:34 mark.

The Bearcats claimed a six-point lead a bit later at 54-48 on a basket and a foul shot by Troplent with 13:56 to play. The Boxers countered with a 10-0 run that included a pair of long-range shots by Spitler. His second 3-pointer completed the run and gave Pacific a 58-54 lead with 10:37 left.

Willamette got as close at 62-61 following a 3-pointer from McCullough with 8:18 to go, and the Bearcats trailed just 67-63 on a jumper by Dylan Critchfield (So., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) with 7:15 on the clock. Pacific chalked up the next seven points, and held at least a seven-point advantage the rest of the night.

The Boxers hit 19 of 29 shots in the second half (65.5%) after making just 32.4% (11 of 34) in the first 20 minutes. Pacific connected on 9 of 22 three-pointers.

Overall, WU shot 43.3% from the field (26 of 60), including 8 of 21 from behind the 3-point arc. Both teams shot well at the line, with Pacific sinking 23 of 29 attempts (79.3%) and Willamette converting 21 of 27 (77.8%).

Willamette committed just two more turnovers than the Boxers (12-10), but Pacific earned a 23-4 margin in points off turnovers. The Boxers finished with a 40-26 lead on points in the paint.

The Bearcats will travel to McMinnville, Oregon, on Friday, Feb. 5 to take on NWC archrival Linfield College. Game time is set for 8 p.m. (PST).