Bearcats Fall to #1-Ranked Whitman 75-59 after Blues End First Half with 14-2 Run

Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS)
Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Top-ranked Whitman College ended the first half with a 14-2 run for a 16-point lead, while Tim Howell and Trevor Osborne each scored 15 points during the game, as the Blues defeated Willamette University, 75-59, in Northwest Conference men's basketball action at Cone Field House on Saturday, Jan. 20. The Blues hold the #1 spot in the Top 25 Poll. Jordan Jenkins (Jr., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) led Willamette with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Nico Troplent (Sr., W, Guadaloupe, France/Cathedral HS) added 10 points and five boards.

Whitman remained undefeated at 17-0 on the season, while moving to 8-0 in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 8-9 overall, 3-5 in the NWC.

The Blues owned a 22-18 lead after Micah Fleming (Fr., G, Orland, CA/Orland HS) of Willamette sank two free throws with 6:46 left in the first half. Whitman answered with nine consecutive points, before Dylan Critchfield (Sr., P, Broomfield, CO/Standley Lake HS) interrupted the run by scoring on a layup for the Bearcats with 1:44 to go. The Blues ended the half with five consecutive points on a 3-pointer by Trevor Osborne and a layup by Austin Butler to take a 36-20 lead.

At the start of the second half, Joey Hewitt connected on a 3-pointer and Howell made a jump shot, giving the Blues a 41-20 lead with 17:48 remaining. Whitman's largest lead was 23 points at 57-34 with 11:19 left and at 62-39 with 9:37 to go. Willamette pulled within 16 points, 62-46, following a jumper by Troplent with 7:27 on the clock. The Bearcats didn't get as close again until the final basket of the game.

Willamette held Whitman well below its 101.4 points-per-game scoring average. The Blues entered the game with an average scoring margin of 26.8 points per contest.

Powell and Osborne tied for game-high scoring honors. Powell hit 6 of 11 field goals, including one 3-pointer, and went 2 for 2 at the free throw line. Osborne scored his 15 points on five 3-pointers. Hewitt provided Whitman with an additional 12 points. Austin Bell earned eight points, five assists, for steals and one blocked shot.

For Willamette, Jenkins and Troplent combined for 21 points and 13 rebounds. Jenkins was 4 for 8 from the floor, while Troplent converted 4 of 7 field goals. Brendon McCullough (Sr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) chipped in eight points and three steals. Casey Thornton (Sr., W, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) contributed seven points, while Conin Oishi (Sr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) supplied three assists and four steals.

The defenses dominated the early part of the game. Willamette held a slim 8-7 lead after Thornton scored on a jumper with 14:50 remaining in the half. The Blues tallied the next four points to take an 11-8 advantage with 12:24 on the clock following a jumper by Hewitt. Whitman owned a slim 14-12 margin 10 minutes into the game.

Less than a minute later, the teams were tied for the fifth time at 16-16 on a layup by Troplent. The Blues took a 22-16 lead on a jumper from Jaron Kirkley at the 7:51 mark. Fleming's two free throws followed for Willamette just over a minute later, before Whitman increased the scoring pace during its 14-2 offensive surge to end the half.

Willamette's defense kept the Bearcats in the game for most of the first half even though WU shot just 23.1% (6 for 26) over the first 20 minutes. Whtiman connected on 15 of 32 shots in the first half (46.9%).

The Bearcats improved to 56.7% (17 of 30) in the second half, but Whitman kept pace by shooting 53.8% (14 of 26) during the final 20 minutes, including 7 of 10 from behind the 3-point line. For the game, Willamette was 11 for 11 on free throws, while the Blues sank 9 of 17 free throws (52.9%).

Whitman attained a 33-30 rebounding margin, as both teams grabbed nine offensive boards. Willamette held a slim 36-34 edge on scoring in the paint, while the Blues gained a 24-14 margin in points off turnovers. Whitman's press helped force Willamette into 28 turnovers. The Blues committed 22 turnovers.

The Northwest Conference schedule continues for Willamette next weekend. The Bearcats will play at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, on Friday, Jan. 26. Game time is set for 8 p.m. (PST). Willamette will travel to Portland, Oregon, on Saturday, Jan. 27 to take on Lewis & Clark College at 6 p.m.