Riggs Leads Bearcats to Upset Win Over No. 9-Ranked George Fox, 50-45

Willamette University women's basketball Head Coach Peg Swadener
Willamette University women's basketball Head Coach Peg Swadener

Written by Mark Colachico, Contributing Writer

NEWBERG, Ore. -- For the first time in nearly 18 years, Willamette University's women's basketball team defeated George Fox University, 50-45, Friday evening, January 3, inside Miller Gymnasium. The last time that the Bearcats defeated the Bruins was on February 9, 2002 when Willamette secured a 53-51 win in Salem.

With the win, Willamette improves to 8-3 overall and 2-0 in Northwest Conference play. Meanwhile, George Fox, who is ranked No. 9 in the latest d3hoops.com Top 25 poll, falls to 8-2 overall and 0-1 in NWC action.

Willamette was led offensively by Sami Riggs (Fy., G, La Verne, CA/Bonita HS) with a game-high 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds that included six on the offensive glass. Riggs was aided offensively by Kassin Hopkins (Sr., G, Connell, WA/Connell HS/Bellevue College) and Drew Farmer (Sr., PG, Brookings, OR/Brookings-Harbor HS), who both scored in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Elizabeth Logsdon (Sr., F, McMinnville, OR/McMinnville HS) grabbed a game-high eight rebounds for the Bearcats, while Amanda Carpenter (Jr., G, Beaverton, OR/Sunset HS) handed out the only three assists for Willamette to record a game-high performance.

Both teams battled back and forth over the opening seven minutes of the first quarter, as Willamette held a slim 7-6 lead following a lay-in by Riggs with 3:05 on the clock. Over the next 90 seconds, George Fox would use a 6-0 run to pull ahead by five points (12-7) on a jumper by Aubrey Baker with 1:27 remaining in the opening quarter. The visiting Bearcats would pull within a single bucket (12-10) on a three-pointer by Madison Ballard (So., G, Monroe, OR/Monroe HS) before George Fox ended the opening stanza with a three-pointer by Emily Holder for a 15-10 lead.

The second quarter would see Willamette go on a 12-5 run over the opening five-plus minutes, as the Bearcats took a 22-17 lead following back-to-back free throws by Ava Kitchin (Fy., F, Redmond, OR/Redmond HS) with 4:54 left in the first half. The final four-plus minutes would see George Fox score five unanswered points to knot things at 22-all heading into halftime.

Coming out of the locker room, Willamette used a 14-3 run to pull ahead by 11 points (36-25) on a jumper in the paint by Riggs to give the Bearcats their first double-digit lead of the evening with 3:51 left in the third quarter. George Fox would attempt to battle back over the final two minutes, as the Bruins pulled within eight points (38-30) on a fast break lay-in by Emily Spencer before Riggs beat the third quarter buzzer to give Willamette a 10-point advantage (40-30) heading into the game's final period.

The fourth quarter would begin with Willamette pushing its lead to 11 points (43-32) on a three-pointer by Hopkins with 7:42 remaining in the game. Following a Farmer lay-in with 3:51 on the clock that gave the visiting Bearcats a 10-point cushion (47-37), George Fox scored eight of the next nine points to pull within three points (48-45) on a three-pointer by Holder with 18 seconds left. Clutch free throw shooting and timely defensive rebounding by Willamette in the final seconds would secure the Bearcats' victory.

George Fox was led offensively by Spencer with 14 points, while Holder and five other Bruins added eight and four points, respectively. Spencer would tie with fellow teammate Baker for the team-high in rebounds with four each, while she also handing out a team-high tying two assists to go along with a pair of assists each by Hailey Hartney and Holder.

Willamette would combine to shoot 17-for-46 (37.0%) from the field, while the Bearcats were also a combined 6-of-23 (26.1%) from beyond the three-point line and 10-for-20 (50.0%) at the free throw line. Meanwhile, George Fox was a combined 17-for-60 (28.3%) from the field, 4-for-16 (25.0%) from long distance, and 7-for-13 (53.8%) at the charity stripe.

Next up for Willamette is a trip to Eastern Washington to take on the Pirates of Whitworth University on Friday, January 10, beginning at 6:00 P.M. (PST) in Spokane, Washington.