By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SPOKANE, Wash. -- Justus Eaglesmith (Jr., G, Sparks NV/Spanish Springs HS) of Willamette University scored 12 points, including a pair of 3-point shots, but nationally ranked Whitworth University defeated the Bearcats, 97-56, in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Friday, Jan. 10 at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Sam Lee topped Whitworth with 17 points while hitting 7 of 10 shots from the field.
Whitworth, ranked #22 in the D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll, advanced its record to 9-3 on the season, including 3-0 in the NWC. Willamette ended the night at 1-11 overall, 0-3 in the NWC.
Five of Willamette's opponents have won at least nine games so far this season. In addition to Whitworth at 9-3, Saint John's University (Minn.) and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse are both 11-1, while Buena Vista University (Iowa) and Nebraska Wesleyan University are both 12-2.
Eaglesmith was one of three Willamette players with double-digit scoring against Whitworth. Ben Sutton (Jr., F, Seattle, WA/Ingraham HS) and Daniel Plumer (Fy., PG, North Las Vegas, NV/Democracy Preparatory Academy) each registered 11 points for the Bearcats. Sutton also grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Cade Whicker (Fy., F, Fruit Heights, UT/Davis HS) provided nine points, five rebounds, three steals and a blocked shot. Kenny Wright Jr. (Fy., PG, Dallas, TX/R.L. Turner HS) and Ryan Peterson (Jr., P, Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway HS) each grabbed four boards.
Listed after Lee on the Whitworth scoring chart was Rowan Anderson with 12 points. Anderson was 4 of 5 on field goals. He also supplied the Pirates with a game-high four assists. Three players, Ben College, Garrett Hull and Liam Fitzgerald, each scored 10 points for Whitworth. Fitzgerald also hauled down seven rebounds and blocked three shots. Whitworth shot 54.4% on field goals (37 of 68), including 63.3% in the second half (19 of 30). The Pirates connected on 14 of 28 three-point attempts (50.0%) during the game.
The game began with Fitzgerald hitting a 3-pointer for Whitworth and Whicker answering with a 3-pointer for Willamette before the clock reached the 19:00 mark. The Pirates tallied the next six points on a traditional three-point play by Lees and a 3-point basket by Reed Brown to open a 22-4 run. Whitworth used the offensive surge to hold a 25-7 lead with 11:06 remaining in the half. The run included two 3-pointers by College.
Willamette recovered with a 3-pointer by Eaglesmith and a 3-pointer from Whicker during the next minute to reduce the margin to 25-13. The teams exchanged the next two baskets, and then the Pirates went on a 7-0 run to claim a 34-19 advantage. Jack Boydell (Fy., F, Sonoma, CA/Sonoma Valley HS) scored next on a 3-point shot for Willamette, but the Pirates eventually built a 42-20 lead with 3:28 to go in the half. Whitworth led 49-30 at the break.
Although Whitworth extended the margin to 55-32 early in the second half, the Bearcats scored five consecutive points on a jumper by Sutton and a 3-pointer by Eaglesmith to reduce the lead to 55-37 with 17:12 to play. Willamette was unable to get closer, as the Pirates put together an 18-3 run to pull away.
The Bearcats converted 35.0% of their shots (21 of 60), including 43.3% (13 of 30) in the first half. Willamette was 6 for 20 (30.0%) from behind the 3-point arc and 8 for 13 (61.5%) at the free throw line. The Bearcats lost the ball 13 times, while Whitworth committed 11 turnovers.
Willamette will take on Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, on Saturday, Jan. 11 in another Northwest Conference game. Tipoff between the Bearcats and the Blues is set for 6 p.m. (PST).