McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Repeatedly slashing his way through the lane on the way to a career-high 20 points, freshman Tanner Brill carried the home-standing Linfield Wildcats to a 70-63 Northwest Conference victory over the Willamette Bearcats Tuesday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Linfield (4-19, 2-12 NWC) snapped a three-game losing slide while avoiding the distinction of falling into last place in the conference.
Willamette (3-20, 1-13 NWC) defeated Linfield 78-70 five weeks ago in Salem for its only conference win.
Nine first-half points by Brill helped the hosts establish a 34-26 lead at intermission. Brill hit 4 of 6 shots from the field and passed out three assists in the period as the ‘Cats asserted themselves in the early going.
Adam Myren put Linfield on the board in the first minute with the first of six Linfield 3-pointers during the opening 20 minutes. Willamette led just once in the game, 6-5, following Kyle McNally's layup at the 17:27 mark.
Aided by a pair of Jackson Gion 3-pointers, Linfield launched a 12-2 run that put the hosts in control. The Linfield lead grew to as many as 11 points following a layup by Vinnie Toor (Sr., Fremont, Calif.).
Willamette stayed close, trimming the margin to five after two successful free throws from Brandon Luedtke made the score 23-18. An 11-4 spurt by Linfield pumped the lead back to double digits before it settled back to eight at the break. Linfield shot 50 percent from the field in the first half.
The Bearcats' steadfast refusal to wilt in the second period kept the outcome in doubt. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Alex Brown with just over 13 minutes left cut the Linfield advantage to single digits, giving Willamette fresh hope. The Bearcats then whittled the deficit to a single point, 46-45, thanks to a pair of free throws by McNally with 7:43 to play.
A 3-pointer from Gion on a feed from Brill seconds later turned the tide and the Wildcats maintained the lead the rest of the way.
Five three throws by Ryan Cali (Sr., San Jose, Calif.) in the final minute provided the cushion Linfield needed to seal the win.
In addition to Brill's 20 points, Gion contributed a solid all-around night off the bench with 14 points, four steals and three rebounds. Cali added 13 points, going a perfect 8-for-8 at the free throw line. The junior guard also snared a game-high seven rebounds.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 47 percent from the floor, compared with the Bearcats' 35 percent. Linfield canned nine threes in the contest and outrebounded Willamette 33-30.
Brown totaled 20 points in a losing effort. Bridger Harlington had nine points and four rebounds in a reserve role. Luedtke registered eight points and six rebounds.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield ended a four-game series losing skid to Willamette. . . Myren hobbled off the court in the second minute of the game with an apparent lower body injury. . . freshman center Mason Rodby (So., Redmond, Ore.) missed the game due to injury after being in the starting lineup the previous two contests for the ‘Cats.
AHEAD: Linfield is back to action Friday night at Pacific University in Forest Grove. The Wildcats and Boxers tip off at 8 p.m. with live audio coverage getting underway at approximately 7:50 p.m.