Bruins strengthen hold on second place
The competition between the top three teams in the Northwest Conference has been quite fierce in previous seasons, with the league even qualifying all three for the NCAA Tournament in some cases.
George Fox made it clear 2018 isn't one of those years, as the second-place Bruins routed third-place Willamette 81-50 Friday night at home.
GFU coach Michael Meek's team followed that up by demolishing Linfield 83-47 Saturday to keep pace with league-leading Whitman, which handed GFU its lone loss in conference play Jan. 12.
"I just feel like this is a brand new team," Meek said. "We've got a bunch of new starters, a bunch of kids in new roles. I just think they're really buying in and really starting to get more comfortable with who we are as a team. That's becoming more and more apparent."
Both teams got off to a slow start Friday night, as the Bruins held an 8-5 lead over the Bearcats with more than five minutes into the first quarter.
George Fox created numerous open shots from beyond the three-point line, but wasn't on target in the early going. The Bruins did find success, however, getting to the basket late in the first quarter, as they scored 14 points in the final 4:15 of the opening stanza to take a 22-14 lead.
Senior post Kaitlin Jamieson powered GFU during that run, hitting all four of her field goal attempts to finish the quarter with eight points.
Jamieson hit back-to-back shots to give the home side a 30-18 lead just under four minutes into the second quarter and Emily Spencer closed the half with back-to-back layups to put the Bruins up 41-26 at the break.
George Fox finished the half with 36 points in the paint, led by Jamieson's 12.
"One thing about this team is we've got a lot of great shooters, but we've got a lot of great inside players as well," Meek said. "I think the balance of our team is just really hard to deal with. Willamette's a great team and they've had a great year. There's a chance we see them down the road again. We just have to continue to improve and get better."
It was defense, however, that allowed the Bruins to pull away for good in the second half, as Willamette (11-8, 7-3 NWC) managed just eight points in the third quarter and watched the deficit grow to 25 points entering the fourth quarter.
"We're definitely trying to get better defensively," Meek said. "This is just a great group of players. They just have great attitudes, they work really hard, they have fun together and I feel like they're doing a great job improving because of it."
Jamieson finished with a team-high 16 points in just 19 minutes of playing time, finishing seven-for-eight from the floor and two-for-two from the free throw line.
Spencer was the only other Bruin to finish in double figures at 10 points, but Tavin Headings and reserve forward Emily Holder added nine points apiece.
It was a similar story Saturday night versus the rival Wildcats, with George Fox using a strong second quarter to pull ahead 37-21 by halftime.
Linfield (8-11, 4-6) stayed closer than the Bearcats did in the third quarter, but the Bruins exploded for 29 points in the fourth quarter to add an additional 17 points to the final margin of victory.
Spencer was the catalyst, hitting seven of her 10 field goal attempts to finish with a game-high 20 points. The sophomore point guard also grabbed eight steals and dished out three assists with one turnover.
Headings added 12 points and overall 12 different Bruins scored in the game. In the meantime, Linfield struggled shooting all night, finishing 11 for 46 (23.9 percent) from the floor.
"I think one of the strengths of this team is our depth," Meek said. "I'm playing a lot of kids and have a lot of great young players. We also have great senior leadership."
George Fox (16-3, 9-1 NWC) has now won five straight since its loss to No. 5 Whitman (18-1, 10-0) and jumped back into the www.d3hoops.com national rankings at No. 23.
The Bruins will travel to Pacific Lutheran (5-14, 1-9) Friday and to Puget Sound (9-10, 4-6) Saturday before the Blues come to Newberg for the rematch Feb. 10.