SALEM, Ore. – Relying on hot 3-point shooting, an inspired Willamette men’s basketball team surprised Linfield and denied the Wildcats their only opportunity to sweep a league opponent with a 83-75 Northwest Conference victory Friday night at the Cone Field House.
The Bearcats (3-17, 1-10 NWC) knocked down a season-high 13 long-range baskets and overcame an incredible disparity at the free throw line to earn their only conference win of the year. Compared to 43 opportunities at the charity stripe for the Wildcats (4-16, 2-9 NWC), Willamette earned just 16 trips to the line.
A seesaw battle from the get-go, the game featured a total of six ties and 10 lead changes. The first advantage belonged to the Bearcats, who put six points on the board before Linfield scored any. Those early points came on back-to-back 3-pointers from Taylor Mounts, just a preview of the long-range show Willamette was about to put on.
Multiple trips to the free-throw line helped Linfield orchestrate a 13-2 run to climb to a five-point lead, 17-12, with 12:15 remaining in the first period. After a couple of comeback bids fell short, Willamette finally got over the hump on a Ryan Meehan jumper that gave the home team a 28-27 lead with just over six minutes to go. The Bearcats pushed the scoring differential to as many as six points, but a 3-pointer by Zach Anderson cut it to three points, 38-35, just 17 seconds before the first-half buzzer rang.
After the break, Willamette initially looked to run away with the game after outscoring the Wildcats 11-4 over the first four minutes of the second period. But Linfield scratched back with a 13-3 run, capped off by a Jake Hillyer (Jr., Bellevue, Wash.) 3-pointer, that tied the game at 52-all with 11:45 left on the clock.
The final outcome remained a mystery for a while yet as the lead flip-flopped six additional times and neither team was able to sustain an advantage greater than six points. David Lee knocked down a pair of free throws to give Linfield a 70-68 lead with 5:03 remaining, but the next points came from Willamette’s Terrell Malley, who hit one of his four 3-point baskets to tilt the score in the home team’s favor once and for all.
For the game, the Bearcats made 52 percent (13-of-25) of their shot attempts from beyond the arc. Mounts led all Willamette players with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Malley finished with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 4-of-6 from long range.
Anderson tallied a game-high 31 points, 17 of which came from the free throw line. He also added 12 rebounds to register his fourth double-double of the season. Lee was the only other Wildcat to reach double figures in the scoring column, finishing with 16 points and six boards.
AHEAD: Linfield hosts Lewis & Clark Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. with live internet play-by-play coverage beginning at approximately 7:50 p.m.
17-for-19 at free throw line
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