Rally by Bearcats almost Catches Bruins, but George Fox Wins, 78-75

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

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- George Fox University led for most of the game, but Willamette University nearly rallied from a 12-point deficit in the final 2:29, before falling to the Bruins 78-75, in a Northwest Conference game at Cone Field House on Saturday, Dec. 2. GFU improved its record to 4-3 on the season, 1-1 in the NWC. Willamette fell to 3-2 overall and to 1-1 in the NWC.

The Bearcats pulled within 76-75 on a layup by Brendon McCullough (Sr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) with nine seconds left. Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) fouled Jackson Januik of GFU with 7.8 seconds on the clock. Januik missed a 1-and-1 free throw, but teammate Ryan Lacey grabbed the rebound. Trent Callan (Jr., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) of WU fouled Johnathan Doutt with about five seconds to go. Doutt hit both ends of the 1-and-1 to give the Bruins a 78-75 lead. Callan missed a 28-foot three-point shot as time expired.

Five Willamette players reached double figures in scoring. Troplent led the way with 13 points to go along with four rebounds, one blocked shot and two steals. Jordan Jenkins (Jr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) contributed 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists, a block and a steal. Casey Thornton (Sr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) also scored 12 points, while Callan and McCullough each scored 11 points.

Nathan Sherfey (Sr., F, Chehalis, WA/W.F. West HS) registered nine points and led the Bearcats with three 3-point baskets. Conin Oishi (Sr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) provided four points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Bruins were led by Mason Green-Richards with 20 points. He was 6 of 12 from the field and 3 for 6 on 3-point shots. He also earned four boards, three assists and three steals. Lacey followed with 17 points on 7 of 9 field goals, including 2 of 2 on 3-pointers. He finished with four rebounds, two assists and three steals. Dylan Hamlett hit the nets for 10 points, and tied Jenkins of Willamette for game-high rebounding honors with nine boards.

George Fox took a 12-4 lead in the first four minutes ending with a pair of 3-point baskets by Lacey. The Bruins gained a 20-10 margin with 11:48 on the clock when Lacey scored on a layup. Dylan Critchfield (Sr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) answered for WU with a jumper 24 seconds later, but the Bruins scored the next five points on a 3-pointer by Januik and a layup from Doutt. The short burst of points gave GFU a 25-12 lead with 9:23 left before halftime.

A 3-pointer by Rico Thomas provided the Bruins with a 52-26 lead late in the first half. Jenkins scored the final two points of the half for Willamette on a layup with 19 seconds remaining.

After trailing by double digits for nearly the final 10 minutes of the first half it took the Bearcats almost another eight minutes to get back within single digits. In between, the teams mostly exchanged baskets, as George Fox's lead mostly hovered between 11 points and 13 points. The Bruins went up by 16 points at 49-33 on a 3-pointer by Green-Richards before an 8-0 run by the Bearcats reduced the margin to 49-41. Thornton finished the run with a 3-pointer.

The Bruins grabbed a 54-41 lead on a pair of free throws by Hamlett with 11:29 left. Willamette used an 8-1 run to get within 55-49 on another 3-pointer by Thornton at the 10:21 mark. GFU again returend to a double-digit lead by scoring the next six points, and remained in front by at least seven points until just over a minute remained in the game.

GFU's margin was 12 points at 74-62 wit 2:29 on the clock following a layup by Doutt. The next four points went to the Bearcats, but Kevin Dent scored for the Bruins on a layup with 1:30 to go for a 76-66 lead. WU surged back one final time on a layup by McCullough at the 1:18 mark, a layup from Thornton at 1:05 and a 3-pointer by McCullough at 0:44, as the GFU lead slipped to three points.

After Doutt missed a layup with 20 seconds left, Troplent grabbed the rebound. WU called timeout with 13 seconds to go, and McCullough put through a layup with nine seconds left to cut the margin to 76-75. Lacey's rebound on Januik's missed free throw, plus Doutt's two free throws, preserved the win for the Bruins.

George Fox shot 48.3% from the field (29 of 60) and hit 8 of 20 three-point attempts (40.0%). The Bruins were 12 of 18 (66.7%) at the line. Willamette shot 45.3% for the game (24 of 53), but connected on 53.1% of its shots (24 of 53) over the final 20 minutes. The Bearcats sank 7 of 23 three-pointers (30.4%) and made 20 of 29 free throws (69.0%). The Bruins garnered a 36-34 rebounding advantage and outscored WU 36-28 on points in the paint. The Bearcats gained a 27-20 edge in bench scoring.

Up next for the Bearcats is a match-up with crosstown rival Corban University on Friday, Dec. 2. Tipoff at Cone Field House is set for 8 p.m. (PST).