Coward's 3-Point Play with 4.2 Left sends Willamette over Knights, 98-95

Cedric Coward shoots a layup for Willamette.
Cedric Coward (Fy., F, Fresno, CA/Central HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications, (503) 370-6110

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Cedric Coward (Fy., F, Fresno, CA/Central HS) scored on a layup and added a free throw with 4.2 seconds left to break a tie and send Willamette University on its way to a 98-95 win over Warner Pacific University on Friday, Dec. 10 at C.C. Perry Gym. Willamette trailed with less than a minute remaining, but the Bearcats scored the final five points.

With the win, Willamette improved to 3-5 on the season. The Knights fell to 6-4.

Willamette trailed 95-93 after Justice DeCorsi of WPU hit two free throws with 57 seconds left, but the Bearcats tied the game on a layup by Coward with 35 seconds to go.

On the next possession, the Knights committed a turnover with nine seconds left. Willamette moved the ball into the frontcourt and called a timeout with seven seconds on the clock. Coward's winning layup was assisted by Meelad Doroodchi (So., F, Mooresville, NC/Pine Lake Preparatory). Coward, who was fouled on the play by Nigel McKay, sank the ensuing free throw to give Willamette a 98-95 lead. Tyrese Yussuf-Willis of Warner Pacific missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired.

Coward led Willamette with 22 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. He was 9 of 12 on field goals and hit 4 of 5 free throws. Jonathan Watts (Sr., W, San Diego, CA/Rancho Bernardo HS) scored 20 points, including a 3-point basket, and was 5 for 5 at the free throw line. Watts also provided three boards, two assists, and a blocked shot.

Two other Bearcats joined Coward and Watts in double figures. Ryder Hsiung (Fy., G, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) tallied 15 points, hit 3 of 6 three-point attempts, and earned two assists. Daniel Plumer (Jr., PG, North Las Vegas, NV/Democracy Preparatory Academy) contributed 13 points, four rebounds, and two assists. In addition, Doroodchi earned a team-high five assists, while Kenny Wright Jr. (Jr., PG, Dallas, TX/R.L. Turner HS) and Jack Boydell (Jr., F, Sonoma, CA/Sonoma Valley HS) each brought down five boards.

"This was the epitome of a team win," Willamette Head Men's Basketball Coach Kip Ioane said. "We don't leave here with a 'W' without every single guy contributing. Hats off to our guys for fighting together to the last minute and executing."

Willamette shot 54.2% from the field (39 of 72), including 57.6% (19 of 33) in the second half. WU put through 8 of 27 three-pointers (29.6%) and sank 12 of 14 free throws (85.7%). The Bearcats registered a 35-31 rebounding edge and held an 18-14 lead in second-chance points. WU gained a 54-48 advantage in the paint and a 41-25 margin in bench scoring.

Yussuff-Willis topped Warner Pacific with a game-high 24 points. He led all players with six assists and four steals. He was 11 for 12 at the free throw line. WPU made 24 of 29 free throws (82.8%), but finished with 32 field goals, seven fewer than the Bearcats. Also in double figures for the Knights were DeCorsi with 20 points and seven boards, Isaac Etter with 17 points and three 3-point baskets, McKay with 12 points, and Miles Brown with 10 points. Thomas Miles earned nine points and three steals. WPU was 32 of 63 on field goals (50.8%) and hit 7 of 20 three-pointers (35.0%).

The Bearcats surged out to a 7-0 lead with 18:32 left in the first half on a 3-pointer by Terry Sherman (Fy., Lake Charles, LA/St. Louis Catholic HS) and layups by Boydell and Watts. Another layup by Watt at the 15:27 mark gave Willamette a 15-8 margin. Warner Pacific responded with 19 consecutive points to take a 27-15 lead with 10:12 to go before the break. Etter and Miles each supplied a 3-pointer during the run.

Willamette trailed 48-37 with 2:29 on the clock, but closed the half with a 9-2 run that reduced the margin to 50-46. Willamette's run featured a jumper and a layup by Watts, a layup from Mason Hoffman (So., P, Sammamish, WA/Seattle Preparatory School), and a 3-pointer by Plumer.

A 9-2 run by Warner Pacific to open the second half gave the Knights a 59-48 edge with 16:53 left, and WPU remained in front by double digits at 68-58 with 13:45 to play. The Bearcats answered with a 15-1 run to grab a 73-69 lead at the 10:16 mark. Five players -- Hsiung, Doroodchi, Josiah Frank (Fy., G, Turlock, CA/John H. Pitman HS), Plumer, and Watts -- scored during the run, including one 3-pointer each by Frank and Watts.

The teams were close the rest of the way, with WU leading by four points several times and WPU leading by two points twice. The score was tied six times in the final nine minutes.

Watts sank a layup with 3:39 left to give the Bearcats a 93-89 advantage. Yussuf-Willis scored next for the Knights on a layup at the 3:27 mark and tied the game at 93-93 on two free throws with 1:26 to go. WPU's final points were scored on DeCorsi's free throws with 57 seconds remaining, before Willamette ended the game with a 5-0 run.

The Bearcats will take on Piedmont University (Ga.) on Saturday, Dec. 11 at Cone Field House. Game time is set for 3 p.m. (PST).