Willamette's Rally Falls Short in 71-67 Loss to La Verne

Bearcats will Play Berry (Ga.) in Final Game of Hampton Inn Classic III

By Brandon Chinn, Student Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SANTA CRUZ, CALIF. -- Looking to avenge a three-point loss to the University of La Verne in its season-opening contest back on Nov. 15, Willamette University rallied back from an eight-point halftime deficit to jump in front of the Leopards 45-44 with 12:21 remaining on Tuesday, Dec. 17.

The lead was short lived, however, as the Leopards scored eight unanswered points to retake the lead, and went on to hold off the Bearcats 71-67 in Willamette's second game at the Hampton Inn Classic III.

Riding a season-high, five-game winning streak, La Verne improved its record to 6-2 on the season. Willamette fell to 1-7 in non-conference action. Also on Tuesday, the University of California-Santa Cruz, which is hosting the tournament, defeated Berry College (Ga.), 87-63.

The Leopards were paced by Lindsey Foster, who again haunted the Bearcats with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Foster registered 20 points and 13 rebounds in the team's first meeting against Willamette. Emily Meyers finished second in scoring for La Verne with 15 points, including 11 in the first half.

La Verne scored the final four points in its previous game against Willamette and picked up on Tuesday where it left off, possessing leads of 8-0 and 13-4 early in the game.

Trailing by 12 points, 22-10, with just under seven minutes remaining in the first half, Willamette cut into the lead over the next five minutes. The Bearcats cut the deficit to just six points, 32-26, after a three-pointer by Kylie Towry (Fr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) at the 1:32 mark. A run by the Leopards forced the Bearcats to enter the intermission trailing 40-28.

The Bearcats stormed out of the locker room to start the second half. Three-point field goals on consecutive possessions by Alex Wert (Fr., F, Spokane, WA/St. George's HS) and Towry offset a basket by Lindsay Foster to cut La Verne's lead to eight points. Katie Kalugin (Jr., G, Woodburn, OR/Woodburn HS) sank a pair of free throws and a jump shot to trim the margin to four at 42-38 with 17:01 on the clock.

Down 44-40 two and a half minutes later, a three by Jojo DeLong (Jr., PG, Santa Clarita, CA/Canyon HS) pulled Willamette to within a single point. The Bearcats grabbed their first lead of the game after Rebecca Josephson (Sr., G, Fair Oaks, CA/Del Campo HS) hit a mid-range jumper at the 12:21 mark in the second half. 

Josephson's shot capped off a 17-4 run in just over seven minutes of action. "We had a great second half," Willamette second-year Head Coach Peg Swadener said. "It was a great run."

The Leopards stepped in and halted Willamette's momentum, rolling off eight straight points to regain a 52-45 lead. The lead was short lived, as back-to-back threes by DeLong plus a lay-up by Kalugin moved Willamette in front once again, 55-54, with 6:10 left.

With the score knotted at 57-57 and four minutes remaining in regulation, La Verne delivered the knockout blow with an 8-2 run. Success on three out of four free throws started the run, before DeLong sank two free throws for Willamette to pull within 60-59.

A layup by Foster with 2:12 left and a 3-pointer by Tiffany Hicks with 1:20 to go, gave La Verne a six-point lead at 65-59. The Leopards converted six of their final eight free throws in the final minute to prevail, 71-67.

Willamette was led by DeLong, who scored 24 points on eight made field goals. She also played a major roll in the team's second half rally by scoring 17 of her points after halftime. Kalugin finished with a double-double on 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bearcats' shooting was much improved after intermission. The team shot just 31.0% (9 for 29) in the first half but rebounded to shoot over 40.6% in the second half (13 for 32). WU made 8 of 21 three-pointers (38.1%) and hit 15 of 19 free throws (78.9%).

La Verne shot 31.5% for the game (23 of 73). The Leopards connected on 6 of 13 three-point attempts (46.2%) and made 19 of 27 free throws (70.4%). La Verne earned a 51-47 rebounding edge, including 19 offensive boards.

Willamette will conclude its participation in the Hampton Inn Classic III on Wednesday, Dec. 18 against Berry. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. (PST).

BOX SCORE

La Verne University 71
Willamette University 67

Hampton Inn Classic III

Jojo DeLong finished with 24 points on 8 of 15 shooting in the team's narrow defeat to La Verne on Tuesday afternoon.

Jojo DeLong finished with 24 points on 8 of 15 shooting in the team's narrow defeat to La Verne on Tuesday afternoon.