Bearcats Pull Away from Banana Slugs, 79-57

Brown Scores 16 Points, Hansen Adds 14

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University held a 33-29 lead at halftime and pulled away in the final 10 minutes of the game for a 79-57 victory over the University of California-Santa Cruz on Saturday, Dec. 28 at Cone Field House.

Alex Brown (Jr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) led the Bearcats with 16 points. Alex Hansen (Sr., Wing, Reno, NV/Galena HS) added a career-high 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting, including 4 for 5 on 3-pointers. Kyle McNally (Jr., F, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) chipped in 10 points, six boards and four steals.

Brandon Luedtke (So., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) of WU hauled down a career-high 15 rebounds to lead all players. He scored seven points, earned four assists, blocked two shots and supplied two steals.

Jared Ponce topped the Banana Slugs with 20 points. Spencer Wells tacked on 10 points. James Townsend recorded eight points and three steals to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Willamette improved to 2-6 on the season, including 1-1 at home. UC-Santa Cruz dropped to 2-12, including 0-9 in road games.

The Bearcats scored the first four points of the second half on a free throw by Luedtke and a 3-pointer by Hansen for a 37-29 lead. WU extended the margin to 11 points at 43-32 on a jumper by Hayden Russell (Fr., G, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci HS) with 14:55 to go.

Each team tacked on a 3-pointer before UC-Santa Cruz used a 7-2 run to pull within 48-42 at the 10:34 mark. The final points of the offensive surge were scored for the Banana Slugs by Hayden Bishop on a 3-point basket.

WU responded by taking command of the game with a 13-0 run. Brown and Luedtke opened the string of consecutive points with layups. Brown tacked on another layup for a 54-42 lead with 8:31 to go.

After Hansen sank a 3-pointer, Brown added two free throws and Noah Ripley (Sr. Post, Springfield, OR/Springfield HS) scored on a layup for a 61-42 advantage with 6:22 remaining.

Willamette's lead dipped to 63-49 on a 3-pointer by Ponce with 4:53 on the clock, but the Banana Slugs never got closer. The advantage reached 73-53 on a pair of free throws by McNally with 2:12 left.

The Bearcats controlled much of the second half by hitting 16 of 29 field goals (55.2%). WU held UC-Santa Cruz to just 9 of 24 shooting (29.2%) in the second half.

For the game, Willamette connected on 50.8% of its field goal attempts (30 of 59), while making 9 of 23 three-pointers (39.1%). After converting just one of their first eight free throws, the Bearcats sank 9 of 11 in the final 6:46 to finish 10 of 19.

UC-Santa Cruz shot 36.4% for the night (16 of 44), including 9 of 24 on three-pointers (37.5%). The Banana Slugs were 16 of 24 at the line.

WU forced UCSC into 26 turnovers, as the Bearcats registered 11 steals. Meanwhile, WU lost the ball 16 times, with only six turnovers in the second half. UC-Santa Cruz achieved a 33-32 advantage on the boards.

The game started slowly for Willamette, which trailed 8-2 after Ponce sank a 3-pointer at the 16:18 mark. The Bearcats tied the game at 10-10 on a jumper by Russell with 13:34 on the clock and eventually built a 17-13 lead.

UCSC tallied the next four points to tie the score, and the game was deadlocked again at 19-19 with 8:52 left in the half.

Willamette surged in front by scoring eight of the next nine points for a 27-20 advantage following a 3-pointer by Joseph Jackson (Jr., Wing, Hillsboro, OR/Hillsboro HS) with 4:54 remaining. The Banana Slugs pulled within three points at 27-24, before Willamette ended the half with a 6-2 run.

The Bearcats will move on to the second game in their six-game homestand when they host Concordia University (Ore.) on Monday, Dec. 30. Game time is set for 3 p.m. (PST). WU will then open Northwest Conference action with home games on Jan. 3, Jan. 4, Jan. 7 and Jan. 10.

BOX SCORE

Willamette University 79
Univ. of California-Santa Cruz 57

Post-game Interviews

Alex Brown led the  Bearcats with 16 points. He was 6 of 10 on field goals and went 4 for 4 on free throws.

Alex Brown led the Bearcats with 16 points. He was 6 of 10 on field goals and went 4 for 4 on free throws.

Alex Hansen scored a career-high for the second game in a row, as he put in 14 points, after scoring 13 points at California Lutheran.

Alex Hansen scored a career-high for the second game in a row, as he put in 14 points, after scoring 13 points at California Lutheran.