Bearcats Rally from 17-Point Halftime Deficit to Win against Lewis & Clark, 74-69

Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS)
Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS)

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University trailed by 21 points late in the first period and by 17 points at halftime, but the Bearcats rallied for a 74-69 victory over Lewis & Clark College on Friday, Feb. 18 at Cone Field House. The Bearcats shot just 25.0% in the first half (8 of 32), but hit 61.5% from the field (16 of 26) in the second half to pull off the comeback.

WU concluded the season with an 8-17 record, 5-11 in the Northwest Conference. L&C fell to 9-14 overall, 5-10 in the NWC with one game remaining.

Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) provided his 10th double-double of the season for Willamette, as he recorded 10 points and 12 rebounds to go along with four assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Luedtke scored all 10 of his points in the second half.

Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) topped WU's offensive chart with 14 points. Also reaching double figures for the Bearcats were Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS), who put in 13 points, and Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS), who contributed 11 points.

Cannen Roberson led the Pioneers by scoring 17 points. He also hauled down nine rebounds. Jason Luhnow earned 12 points -- all in the first half -- and led all players with 13 rebounds. Markel Leonard also scored 12 points for L&C.

Troplent, who missed much of the first half with two fouls, successfully guarded Luhnow for most of the second half, keeping him off the scoreboard.

Lewis & Clark zoomed out to an 11-2 lead just 5:19 into the game. The Pioneers remained in front throughout the half. They held a 41-20 lead with 1:49 left after Luhnow scored on a 3-point basket.

Hayden Russell (Jr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) hit a 3-pointer next for Willamette, but Leonard scored on a layup with seven second on the clock to give L&C a 20-point cushion. Russell was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer just before the half expired, and he sank all three free throws for Willamette.

The Bearcats trailed 43-26 at halftime, but opened the second half with a 10-2 run. Willamette eventually tied the game at 55-55 on a jumper by Troplent with 8:58 remaining in the game. WU earned its first lead of the night at 63-62 when Brown hit 1 of 2 free throws with 5:19 to go.

L&C took a one-point lead 17 seconds later on two free throws by Roberson. Willamette moved back in front on a jumper by Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) at the 4:51 mark and took a 67-64 lead on a shot by Luedtke in the paint with 4:15 left.

Willamette never tailed again, although L&C moved within a single point twice, including 68-67 following a free throw by Cory Coombe with 3:12 on the clock. WU scored the next six points to take a 74-67 lead following two free throws by Harlington with 11 seconds to play.

In addition to great shooting over the final 20 minutes, Willamette's comeback also included improvement at the defensive end.

The Bearcats, who limited L&C to 38.5% shooting (15 of 39) in the first half, were even stingier in the second half, as the Pioneers were held to 30.8% on field goals (8 of 26), including 0 for 7 from 3-point range. In addition eight of L&C's 14 turnovers were in the final 20 minutes.

Willamette connected on 7 of 15 three-pointers during the game, including 4 for 5 in the second half. The Bearcats helped their cause by converting 19 of 22 free throws (86.4%). L&C was 18 for 30 (60.0%) at the line.

Bolstered by a 37-15 rebounding margin in the first half, Lewis & Clark finished the game with a 54-30 edge on the glass. The Pioneers grabbed 23 offensive boards leading to 22 second-chance points.

Willamette committed just eight turnovers and recorded nine steals. WU earned a 23-16 advantage in bench scoring and 10-7 lead in points off turnovers.

Prior to the game, the Bearcats honored this year's seniors -- Brown, Harlington and Luedtke.

Brown played in 102 games and scored 733 points, while recording 250 rebounds. Harlington saw action in 79 games and achieved 563 points to go with 160 rebounds and 96 three-point baskets. Luedtke saw action in 95 games, including 68 starts. He scored 914 points, secured 730 rebounds, registered 143 steasls and provided 154 assists. Luedtke shot 52.6% form the field during his Willamette career.

All three seniors scored in double figures on Friday.