McMINNVILLE, Ore. – This time, there would be no late-game drama or heroics, only a titanic effort on the boards from Kaely Maltman.
In a stark contrast from hanging on for a two-point victory after surrendering an 11-point lead back in January, Linfield steamrolled to a 30-point rout of Northwest Conference rival Willamette, 83-53, Tuesday evening inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Maltman totaled the second most rebounds in Wildcat single-game history, and moved into fifth position on the career ladder, snagging 21 boards to go along with 18 points to propel Linfield (8-15, 4-10 NWC) to its biggest league victory of the year.
Taylor Solomon led all players with 20 points, including 13 in the second half, on 8-for-12 shooting and Katelyn Henson went a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line en route to 10 points on the night.
Julia Brand led a trio of double-digit scorers on the Willamette (3-20, 1-13 NWC) side with 14 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Katie Kalugin scored eight of her 12 points in the first half and Jojo Delong contributed 10 more, five in each period, in a starting role.
Turning some defense into offense, Linfield scored the first seven points of the game. Maltman deflected a pass and after driving upcourt, dished off to Solomon, who finished the layup with contact. The junior guard missed the opportunity to convert the old-fashioned three-point play, but Maltman gathered the offensive rebound for a put-back, and a Solomon 3-pointer on Linfield's next possession pushed the early Wildcat lead to 7-0, just 72 seconds into first-half action.
Kalugin hit a trey for the Bearcats, but another 7-0 run, capped off with a Jessica McMillan transition jumper, gave the Wildcats a 14-3 lead and forced a Willamette timeout.
Up to that point, the Bearcats had settled for outside shots. But beginning with Brand's made layup out of the timeout, Willamette made a concerted effort to drive the lane, and was rewarded with a multitude of free throw opportunities that sparked a 7-2 run.
Shooting a paltry 24.1 percent (7-for-29) from the field, Willamette stayed in the game at the charity stripe, knocking down 10 of 12 chances. Linfield maintained its lead throughout, but saw what was once an 11-point advantage slip to only four points, 31-27, on Daena Mau's layup 12 minutes before the first-half buzzer.
Maltman had a double-double – her eighth of the season and 14th of her career – by the break, totaling 12 points and 10 rebounds. Kalugin paced the Bearcats with eight points, including three free throws.
With both teams trading buckets to open the second half, the Wildcats held a slim 37-32 lead when DeLong knocked in a 3-pointer with 18:12 on the clock. Linfield surged, however, taking advantage of seven straight missed field goals on Willamette's end of the court as part of a 13-0 blitz over the next four minutes that put the Bearcats in the rearview mirror, 50-32.
Brand finally stopped the bleeding with a jumper with 13:58 to go, and she and fellow junior DeLong hit back-to-back buckets to cut Linfield to 14 points, 52-38, with 12:42 on the clock. That is as close as Willamette got, however, as the Wildcats outscored the Bearcats 31-15 the rest of the way.
After Grace McMillan put Linfield up 23 points, 63-40, on a 3-pointer with 9:40 remaining, the Bearcats only thrice dipped the Wildcat lead under 20, including for the final time on Kalugin's jumper with 6:47 to go.
Ten of 11 Wildcats scored, and Annalise Beshears (Sr., Beaverton, Ore.) brought down three rebounds in eight minutes off the bench. For the game, Linfield outrebounded Willamette 48-37 and shot 54.2 percent (32-for-59) from the floor compared to just 27.7 percent (18-for-65) for the Bearcats.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Maltman became just the fourth player in program history to corral 20 or more rebounds…the single-game record is 23, achieved by Jennifer Sampson during the 1994-95 season…for her career, Maltman has totaled 643 rebounds...Solomon recorded her fourth 20-point performance of the season, and has reached double figures 11 times this year…Linfield earned its third straight victory over Willamette, and completed its first conference sweep since the 2011-12 season.
COMING UP: Linfield travels to Forest Grove for its final road game of the year Friday night before returning to Ted Wilson Gymnasium for Senior Night against Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. Both games tip off at 6 p.m.