Jan 31, 2020

Bruins Lose Late In Hard-Fought Battle Against Linfield

A Winning Tradition

  • Three NAIA National Tournaments (1973, 1990, 1992)
  • Two NAIA District Championship (1973, 1990)
  • 22 NAIA District Tournaments
  • Three NAIA Top 25 National Rankings (1990, 1991, 1992)
  • Four Northwest Conference Tournaments (1997-1998, 2009-2010, 2012-2013, 2016-17)
  • Two Cascade Conference Tournaments (1994, 1995)
  • Two NCCAA National Tournaments (1985, 1987)
  • Seven NCCAA Regional Tournaments (1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988)
  • One NCCAA National Coach of the Year
  • Three NAIA District Coaches of the Year
  • Two Northwest Conference Coaches of the Year
  • Two Northwest Conference Players of the Year
  • 17 All-Americans
  • Three NBA Draft Picks  

By Jacob Hayes

NEWBERG --- In a thrilling Northwest Conference rematch, the Linfield Wildcats just edged out the George Fox Bruins late at Taylor Court by a final of 91-87.   


Linfield started the game by winning the tip and scoring soon after, but Kalu Stricklin and Ryan Lacey made shots of their own, tying it at 4-4.  The lead quickly went back to the Wildcats with two threes from Tanner Autencio plus an and-one play from Matt Burger, making it 14-6.  Devon Walker and Michael Mercado-Smith came off the bench though and helped jumpstart the Bruin offense by scoring a three each, bringing the score to 18-14.  After a media timeout, the Bruins capitalized on a backcourt violation, leading to Stricklin burying a three.  On the next possession, he hit another one, but Linfield's Grant Gibb and Dempsey Roggenbuck made back-to-back threes of their own, holding the lead at 25-22.  

A great shimmy play and a bucket from Emilio Mancol got the crowd on their feet, but Linfield continued to respond with buckets of their own, making it hard to claim the lead. Good Linfield defense forced tough finishes around the rim for George Fox, often creating misses, which in turn lead to fast break points as the 'Cats broke the Bruins' press. Linfield extending the lead to 38-28, but Mercado-Smith hit another three to stop the bleeding and Jackson Januik followed it up with a beautiful behind-the-back assist on the baseline to Zack Sly to make it 38-33.  Nonetheless, the Wildcats continued to make shots, stopping the Bruin momentum and putting the lead back to ten, 45-35. In the final minute, the Wildcats looked to score the last bucket of the half, but Stricklin came from the weak side of the rim to stuff the shot, holding the score at 47-39.

To start the second half, Januik made a nice layup through traffic that Lacey followed up with a corner three, cutting the lead to 51-45.  Both teams traded shots back and forth into the media timeout, maintaining the six-point Wildcat lead, but the Bruins got two turnovers from a full court press that Mercado-Smith and Walker turned into five points, tying the game at 59-59.  Linfield quickly stopped the momentum when Berger converted his second three-point play of the night, but the Bruins did not let the lead balloon.  Soon after, Lacey was fouled on a three point attempt and hit all three shots from the charity stripe, tying the score 68-68.   

Linfield scored on a nifty out-of-bounds play, but Mancol brought out the bag of tricks again, hitting a nasty step-back three from the top of the arc to put the Bruins up 71-70.  The Wildcats responded as they continually did, stopping the run and regaining the lead with three shots of their own, but the Bruins wouldn't keel over. Another three from Mercado-Smith tied it at 76-76 and Zach Sly gave them the lead with his own three heading into the last media timeout at 3:29, 81-78.

Out of the timeout, the Wildcats drew two fouls and converted all four free throw attempts and reclaimed the lead 82-81.  Both teams went cold from the field for the two minutes after, but Linfield continued to profit from the bonus and got another point with 1:03 left.  In the following possession Strickin tied the game with a beautiful layup, but Linfield scored again, making the score 85-83.  With 30 seconds left, the Bruins ran a play, but the ball couldn't find the basket and were forced to foul.  Lacey scored after the free throw attempts to bring the score to 87-89, and forced Linfield to the line again, but both shots were made, extending to the lead to 89-85.  Lacey scored again on the next play, leaving 4.9 on the clock and bringing the game within two, but the ball was successfully inbounded and the Bruins were forced to fouled yet again.  Linfield was perfect from the line down the stretch, winning the game 91-87.

Top Performers:   

Stricklin lead the Bruins in scoring with 19 points (8-13), three assists, and 3 rebounds.  Lacey had 18 on the night (7-13) with six rebounds.  Mercado-Smith was electric off the bench, shooting 4-5 from three and finished with twelve points and a team-high four assists.  Sly had 13 points off the bench (5-10) with four rebounds and two steals.

What It Means: 

The Bruins fall to 7-11 on the season as a whole and are 3-6 in conference play as they begin the second half of the NWC slate.

What Happens Next:

The Bruins start February on the road, traveling to Salem, Ore., to take on the Willamette Bearcats.  Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 at the Cone Field House.