GEORGE FOX 57, WHITMAN 48: Bruins Sizzle at Start to Stun Missionaries in NWC Opener
WALLA WALLA, Wash. – A blistering start by George Fox University and a correspondingly-cold streak by Whitman College enabled the visiting Bruins to build a 19-point first-half lead and then hang on for a 57-48 upset of the Missionaries in the Northwest Conference men's basketball opener for both teams Friday night here at the Sherwood Center.
George Fox hit 6-of-8 to start the game (.750), including 3-of-5 from three-point range, while Whitman managed to sink only 1-of-11 to open play. The Bruins scored the first seven points of the game on a layup by Jon Adrian and a jumper and three-pointer by Mike Taylor. A free throw by Brandon Shaw and a layup by Josh Duckworth put Whitman on the board, but the Bruins reeled off eight more in a row with threes by Taylor and Anthony Sanchez around a basket by Sean Atkins to make it 15-3 with 14:44 to go in the half.
Buckets by LuQuam Thompson and David Michaels trimmed the margin to 15-7 with 14:08 left, but the Bruins went on a 17-6 spree over the next 10 minutes, building a 32-13 lead with 4:33 to play on a trey by Cam Rier. Matt Zandbergen's jumper with 35 seconds gave George Fox a 38-19 halftime lead over the team that was picked to finish second in the conference this season.
The Bruins finished the half hitting .533 (16-30) from the field while the Missionaries climbed up to .276 (8-29). Whitman hit only 1-8 (.125) on threes and .250 (2-8) from the line. Atkins led all scorers with 11 points for the Bruins, while Taylor and Sanchez had eight apiece. Shaw led Whitman with seven points.
The second half began as a complete reversal of the first half as the Missionaries exploded for a 16-0 run to open the period, hitting 6-of-16 shots while the Bruins were going 0-for-9 and committing five turnovers. Atkins finally put the Bruins on the board and halted the Whitman run with a jumper at the 11:35 mark to give the Bruins a five-point cushion at 40-35, and the teams traded points over the next couple of minutes.
Whitman cut the gap to two at 43-41 on a layup by Shaw with 8:48, but the Bruins stretched their lead back out to 10 at 51-41 with 5:43 left following a pair of threes by Adrian and a tip-in by Rier. The Missionaries countered with two free throws and rebound basket by Michaels to make it 51-45 with 5:04 to go, but Spencer Bolte answered with a layup and Adrian and Taylor hit two free throws each, giving the Bruins an insurmountable 57-45 lead with 1:19 left. The Missionaries missed seven straight shots in that span.
The Bruins were playing without leading scorer A.J. Grant, who was sidelined due to a mild concussion suffered at the end of their game with Northwest Christian on Nov. 26. Atkins filled in with a game-high 13 points, Taylor added 12, and Adrian scored 10. The Bruins finished with a .415 shooting percentage (22-53). Taylor had eight rebounds, six assists, and blocked three shots, while Atkins made three steals.
Michaels posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Missionaries, who shot .306 (19-62) from the field and .333 (6-18) from the free throw line. Duckworth just missed a double-double with nine points and nine boards, and handed out three assists. Whitman won the battle of the glass 46-36.
NEXT: George Fox (2-3, NWC 1-0) continues its eastern Washington swing Saturday at defending conference champion Whitworth University Saturday, while Whitman (3-2, NWC 0-1) hosts Lewis & Clark College. Both games tip off at 8:00 p.m., following by NWC women's games at 6:00 p.m.