NEWBERG, Ore. – A year after missing out on the NCAA tournament for just the second time in 10 seasons, George Fox showed it has every intention of returning to the national title conversation and lived up to its 12th-ranked billing with a resounding 86-56 victory over Linfield in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams Saturday evening inside the Wheeler Sports Center.
With the undefeated Bruins (6-0, 1-0 NWC) switching up defenses, including full-court pressure, seemingly every trip up the court, the Wildcats (2-5, 0-1 NWC) struggled to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. Even when Linfield forced turnovers, which happened 15 times in all, the Bruins' transition defense prevented the visitors from capitalizing on any fast-break opportunities.
On the night, George Fox frustrated Linfield into several lengthy field goal droughts, including a six-minute stretch in the first half and a near seven-minute span in the second period. In both instances, only a pair of free throws from Kaleigh Phillips generated any offense for the 'Cats.
Kaely Maltman was the sole Wildcat in double figures, totaling 12 points to go along with a team-high six rebounds. Katelyn Henson contributed nine points while Phillips contributed eight more, including six from the free-throw line.
Megan Arnoldy led all players with 16 points, knocking down three of the Bruins' 11 long-range buckets. Jami Roos and Justine Benner added 11 more points each for George Fox, which shot 46.3 from the field and a blistering 57.9 from 3-point territory.
It took a while for the offense to get going for either side in the early league opener. Linfield kept things close with its Yamhill Country rival through the opening minutes, and took an 8-7 lead on Henson's layup with 13:44 on the clock. But the Bruins responded with a 12-0 run, including seven points from Benner alone, over the next 2½ minutes to blow the game open. By the 8:27 mark of the first half, the gap had spread to 15 points, 25-10, with the final outcome all but decided for the home Bruins.
Only four Wildcats scored in the first half, with Linfield's frontcourt combining for 16 of the team's 18 points. Dani Krier (Sr., Eugene, Ore.) provided the lone bucket for the Linfield guards, scoring on a reverse layup with 4:59 to play. Maltman had a team-high eight points by intermission, while Henson and Phillips added four more each.
The Bruins knocked down shots from anywhere on the floor in the first half, including 54.5 percent from beyond the arc and 92.3 percent from the charity stripe. George Fox converted on six 3-pointers and had 13 total free-throw opportunities compared to just three for Linfield.
Roos scored 10 points over the first 20 minutes, including three free throws on an empty lane as she was fouled on her 3-point attempt from the corner as the first-half buzzer rang.
George Fox picked up right where it left off to start the second half, compiling a massive 21-6 run to deny the Wildcats any chance of a comeback.
Beginning with a 3-pointer from Grace McMillan with 7:54 to go, the Wildcats kept pace with the Bruins over the next several minutes, putting together a nice 7-4 run. But George Fox's reserves kept the pedal down, outscoring their counterparts 15-5 the rest of the way to push the final advantage to 50 points.
‘CAT SCRATCH: All 12 Wildcats logged minutes, and six players scored…Linfield did a much better job getting to the charity stripe in the second half, earning 14 opportunities, but converted on just five of those chances…George Fox has won 13 straight contests against Linfield, winning by an average margin of 23.8 points…the Bruins are 48-23 all-time against the Wildcats…Linfield's last victory against its county rival was a one-point squeaker (51-50) on Jan. 23, 2007.
COMING UP: Linfield plays three final nonleague games before the Northwest Conference schedule picks back up again in January. After a week off from competition for final exams, the Wildcats travel to Northwest Christian Saturday, Dec. 14 for a 5:30 p.m. matchup in Eugene.