By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Ben Sutton (Jr., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS) of Willamette University scored a career-high 22 points and hauled down seven rebounds, but it wasn't enough as Lewis & Clark College downed the Bearcats, 79-67, on Saturday, Dec. 7 at Cone Field House. Lewis & Clark led by just three points, 52-49, with 9:49 remaining in the game, but the Pioneers went on a 9-2 run to take a 61-51 lead with 5:57 left.
It was the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. L&C improved to 3-4 overall and to 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette dropped to 1-6 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC.
Sutton's 22 points led three Bearcats in double figures. Daniel Plumer (Fy., PG, North Las Vegas, NV/Democracy Preparatory Academy) and Jonathan Watts (So., W, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) each contributed 16 points. Plumer also registered six boards, four steals and two assists.
Brian Smith led L&C with 20 points on 7-of-11 field goal shooting and 5 for 7 at the free throw line. Zeke Crawford added 16 points, 17 rebounds, four blocked shots and two assists for the Pioneers. Matt Brown finished with 15 points, four assists and three steals, while Christian Pitcher scored 13 points.
The Bearcats held a 30-26 lead at halftime. Lewis & Clark shot 52.9% from the field over the final 20 minutes to outscore Willamette 53-37 in the second half.
"I thought we played our best defensive half of the year tonight by holding them to 26 points in the first half. The problem is I think L&C played great defense in the second half." — Willamette Head Coach Kip Ioane
Willamette grabbed an 8-4 lead on a layup by Sutton with 16:44 to play in the first half. The Pioneers rallied to move in front, 9-8, on a 3-pointer by Smith with 14:19 left. The Bearcats regained the lead at 10-9 on a layup by Sutton eight seconds later, and remained in front for most of the half.
Even so, L&C stayed within striking distance, as Willamette's largest lead was five points. The Pioneers pulled within a single point several times, including 22-21 following a jumper by Brown at the 3:41 mark. A bit later, WU's margin reached 26-22 on a layup by Sutton with 2:10 to go. L&C tied the score on jumpers by Ryan Cibull and Smith, but WU received a layup by Plumer with 42 seconds left and a jumper by Plumer with three seconds remaining.
The Pioneers broke a 30-30 deadlock in the second half on a 3-pointer by Pitcher at the 17:46 mark. WU and L&C exchanged baskets for several minutes until a basket by Sutton and a jumper by Watts resulted in the Bearcats achieving a 36-35 lead. Lewis & Clark scored the next four points, but the teams were tied at 39-39 and 41-41.
A 6-0 run by L&C presented the Pioneers with a 47-41 lead after Cibull sank a jumper with 11:24 to play. Alec Barba (Jr., G, Dallas, OR/Central HS) score next on a 3-pointer for Willamette, and the Bearcats also cut the margin to three points at 52-49 on a layup by Sutton. Lewis & Clark's key 9-2 run followed, ending with a 3-pointer by Brenden Patrick.
WU pulled within 61-54 a bit later on a layup by Cade Whicker (Fy., F, Fruit Heights, UT/Davis HS) with 4:49 remaining. The Pioneers expanded the lead to 66-54 on five points in a row by Brown, as he sank two free throws and tacked on a traditional three-point play. The Bearcats were unable to get closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Lewis & Clark connected on just 38.5% of its field goals in the first half (10 of 26), but shot 52.9% (18 of 34) in the second half to finish at 46.7% overall. Willamette shot 40.3% for the game (29 of 72), but the Bearcats hit only 14 of 39 shots (35.9%) in the second half. On 3-point attempts, L&C was 5 for 21 and Willamette was 4 for 20. The Pioneers held a sizable lead in free throws made and attempted, as L&C sank 18 of 24 charity shots, while the Bearcats were 5 of 9 at the line.
Willamette caused L&C to lose the ball 17 times, while the Bearcats committed just 11 turnovers. The Pioneers registered a 43-36 rebounding margin.
The Bearcats will not play again until Friday, Dec. 20, when they are scheduled to host the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Tipoff at Cone Field House is set for 2 p.m. (PST).