By Charlie McGuire, Athletics Communications Assistant
SALEM, Ore. – The Willamette University men's basketball team made a great run in the second half but couldn't catch visiting Whitworth University, falling 94-81, on Saturday, Dec. 4 at Cone Field House. The Bearcats slipped to 2-5 on the season and 0-2 in the Northwest Conference. Whitworth improved to 6-1 overall and 1-0 in the NWC.
The Bearcats played even with the Pirates in the opening minutes, with Cedric Coward (Fy., F, Fresno, CA/Central HS) knocking down a 3-pointer to pull Willamette within one at the 15:19 mark. The Pirates led by just three at the midpoint of the half, but used a 15-5 run to stretch the lead to 39-26 at the 3:34 mark.
Whitworth ended the half with an 8-2 run to take a 50-33 lead into halftime. Garrett Paxton led the Pirates with 11 points, going 3 for 3 from beyond the arc in the first half. Coward led the Bearcats with nine points, seven rebounds, and six blocked shots at the break. Jack Boydell (Jr., F, Sonoma, CA/Sonoma Valley HS) and Jonathan Watts (Sr., W, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) each added nine points for Willamette as well.
The Pirates earned 13 trips to the free throw line in the first 20 minutes and converted 10 attempts to shoot 77 percent from the stripe. The visitors held a 32-19 advantage in rebounds and a 28-14 edge on points in the paint in the first half.
The teams traded 3-pointers to open the second half and Whitworth held a 55-39 lead at the 17:32 mark. The Bearcats put together a 13-5 run to cut the deficit to eight. After the Pirates rebuilt the lead to 17, Coward led the charge on another run, hitting a pair of triples as Willamette cut the margin to 79-71, with just over five minutes remaining in the game.
Boydell added a three-pointer and Daniel Plumer (Jr., PG, North Las Vegas, NV/Democracy Preparatory Academy) sandwiched a free throw and a layup around a Whitworth score to pull the Bearcats within four at 81-77. Willamette kept the pressure on, trying to pull even but the Pirates were solid from the line, going 8 for 8 down the stretch to secure the win.
Coward went 3 for 5 from beyond the arc, as he led the Bearcats with a game-high 23 points, finishing with a double-double, by adding 11 rebounds, four assists, and a remarkable eight blocked shots. Watts went 3 for 5 from long range as well, netting 19 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists.
Plumer and Boydell each reached double figures with 14 points, while Plumer added five rebounds and four steals. Boydell dished out four assists on the night.
The Bearcats are in action again next weekend, traveling to Warner Pacific University on Friday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. (PST) and hosting Piedmont University (Ga.) on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 3 p.m.