By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
EUGENE, Ore. -- Kenny Blackwell earned 23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals to lead Northwest Christian University to an 89-84 win over Willamette University on Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Morse Event Center. Northwest Christian improved to 3-0 on the season. Willamette, playing its regular season opener, fell to 0-1.
The Bearcats pulled within four points twice in the final three minutes, including 79-75 with 1:22 left. A bit later, NCU took an eight-point lead after Blackwell provided a traditional three-point play on a basket and a foul shot with 50 seconds left. The Beacons hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final 38 seconds to clinch the win.
"The guys battled for 40 minutes against a very talented NAIA team that won its league last year," Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane said.
Jordan Jenkins (Jr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) supplied Willamette with 18 points, nine rebounds and three assists. He was 7 of 10 from the field. Brendon McCullough (Sr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) tacked on 17 points for Willamette. Casey Thornton (Jr., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) achieved a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
"I'm very pleased to see five guys in double figures for us," Ioane commented. "And I thought we stayed in attack mode all game, which has been a goal of ours. You never like to lose, but this is a loss we can take a ton from, both in terms of what we did well and what we need to improve on."
Blackwell was one of four Northwest Christian players with double-digit scoring. Brock Rice produced 15 points and led the Beacons with three 3-point baskets. Malik Heptot also scored 15 points on the strength of 7-for-11 shooting form the field. Reece Robinson finished with 11 points.
NCU opened the scoring with a 3-pointer by Blackwell, but the Bearcats countered with eight unanswered points. Troplent hit a jump shot, and then McCullough and Thornton each added a 3-point shot. WU led 8-3 with 17:03 left in the first half.
A bit later, the the Bearcats held a 13-6 advantage after Jenkins sank a jumper and a free throw with 14:05 on the clock. The Beacons tied the score at 17-17 on three free throws by rice at the 11:20 mark, but Willamette scored the next five points on a layup by CJ Walker (Jr., P, Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS).
The teams each added a basket, and then Rice connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give Northwest Christian a 25-24 lead with 8:34 to go in the half. After Jenkins made a layup for WU, Rice hit another 3-pointer, as the Beacons moved back in front 28-26.
NCU added two free throws by Tyrus Hosley to increase the margin to 30-26. The Bearcats earned the next points on a 3-pointer by McCullough with 6:15 remaining.
Neither team led by more than four points until Hosley scored on a layup, was fouled, and sank the free throw to give the Beacons a 40-33 edge at the 2:32 mark. Both teams went without a point over the next two minutes. Robinson made 1 of 2 free throws with eight second left to give NCU a 41-33 hafltime lead.
The Beacons outscored the Bearcats 15-10 in the first 4:13 of the second half to increase the lead to 56-43. NCU's run included 3-pointers by Loomis and Robinson.
Willamette cut the margin to 60-53 on a 3-pointer by Conin Oishi (Sr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) with 12:12 remaining. The Bearcats moved within five points, 66-61 when Jenkins put in a layup with 8:21 to go.
Northwest Chrsitian remained in front the rest of way, but never returned to a double-digit margin. The Beacons were close to double digits at 75-66 on a tip-in by Heptot with 4:57 left, but Wilalmette pulled within 77-73 when Troplent sank two free throws with 2:44 remaining.
Two free throws by Robinson at the 2:21 mark were offset by a pair of free throws by Troplent with 1:22 on the clock, leaving the Beacons with a 79-75 lead. Spencer Mattox made two free throws for NCU eight seconds later. McCullough cut the deficit to 81-76 by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 1:05 left, but Blackwell's key three-point play occurred 15 seconds later.
Willamette shot 40.3% on field goals (27 of 67), including 11 of 33 on 3-pointers (33.3%). WU was 19 of 27 at the free throw line (70.4%). The Beacons connected on 46.7% of their shots (28 of 60), while hitting 8 of 18 from 3-point range (44.4%). NCU sank 25 of 33 free throws (75.8%).
The next game for the Bearcats will be on Saturday, Nov. 25 against University of California, Santa Cruz, in the first round of the Santa Cruz Thanksgiving Classic. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. (PST). WU will take on University of La Verne (Calif.) in the second round on Sunday, Nov. 26, also at 3 p.m.