Willamette Leads Early, but #2-Ranked Whitman Defeats Bearcats, 62-43

Carolyn Ho shoots a layup for the Bearcats.
Carolyn Ho (So., G, Parker, CO/Ponderosa HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University led #2-ranked Whitman College 8-2 just over two minutes into the game, but the Blues went on to defeat the Bearcats, 62-43, in a Northwest Conference women's basketball game on Friday, Dec. 3 at Cone Field House. The Blues remained undefeated at 6-0, while moving to 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette slipped to 5-4 overall, 0-1 in the NWC.

Whitman scored first on a basket by Kaylie McCracken on the game's opening possession. The Bearcats answered with eight consecutive points, all by Carolyn Ho (So., G, Parker, CO/Ponderosa HS), on three layups followed by two free throws at the 7:55 mark of the first quarter.

The Blues countered with nine straight points of their own, ending with a layup by Korin Baker for an 11-8 advantage as the clock reached 5:31. Ashlyn Ascuena-Mercil (Jr., F, Boise, ID/Timberline HS) added a jump shot for Willamette, but Whitman held a 13-10 lead following two free throws by McCracken with 3:17 to go. WU regained the lead at 14-13 on a layup by Ava Kitchin (So., F, Redmond, OR/Redmond HS) and a pair of free throws by Sami Riggs (Jr., G, La Verne, CA/Bonita HS), but Whitman moved in front, 15-14 on a driving layup by Kaelan Shamseldin with 27 seconds left.

During the second quarter, the Blues outscored Willamette, 18-9. Whitman tallied the first seven points of the quarter to increase the margin to 22-14. The Bearcats eventually pulled within 25-21 on a layup by Ascuena-Mercil with 4:50 remaining. The Blues earned the next six points. Whitman owned a 33-23 lead at the break.

An 8-0 surge to start the third quarter elevated Whitman's advantage to 41-23 with 7:59 on the clock. WU cut the deficit to 43-29 on two free throws by Claire Bonnet (Jr., G, Boise, ID/Boise HS) with 5:53 left in the quarter, and later moved as close as 12 points at 45-33 following two free throws by Ho at the 2:42 mark. The Blues closed the quarter with a 5-1 run for a 50-34 lead and remained in front by double digits in the fourth quarter.

Ascuena-Mercil led the Bearcats with 12 points and eight rebounds. She also blocked a shot. Ho contributed 10 points, four steals, and four rebounds. Riggs chipped in six points, while Amanda Carpenter supplied five rebounds and three assists.

The Blues received a double-double from McCracken, who topped all players with 20 points, 15 rebounds, and six assists. She was 8 of 15 on field goals and 4 for 5 at the free throw line. Baker tacked on 15 points, while Sydney Abbott and Taylor Chambers each scored six points. Marcy Hampton provided Whitman with six steals. Lindsay Drango added five boards.

Whitman shot 44.3% from the field (27 of 61), while the Bearcats connected on 34.9% of their shots (15 of 43). Both teams struggled from 3-point range, as the Blues hit 3 of 15 attempts and the Bearcats went 1 for 9. Willamette earned a 21-11 margin in scoring off the bench.

The Bearcats will remain at home to battle Whitworth University on Saturday, Dec. 4. Game time is set for 4 p.m. (PDT).