COLLEGE PLACE — Walla Walla University’s Chad Torkelsen came of the bench to provide the first-half spark the Wolves needed Thursday night against West Coast Baptist College.
The freshman guard scored 22 points — including 18 in the first half — on 8-of-13 shooting to lead the Wolves over the Eagles, 90-79.
Sophomore Tyreek Luckett turned in a dominant performance as the off guard, scoring 17 points and pulling down 13 boards for a double-double. The quick-footed guard also led Walla Walla with five steals on the night, and his rebounding helped contribute to a 61-32 Walla Walla advantage on the boards.
The Eagles (5-11 overall) jumped out to a 8-2 lead over Walla Walla (4-18) after a lackluster opening performance from the Wolves, but that was when Torkelsen went off.
After West Coast Baptist’s Travis Burkett drained back-to-back 3-pointers to push the Eagles’ lead to six, Torkelsen answered with a trey of his own, the first of 11 points he scored in a five-minute span.
Torkelsen made four 3s on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc.
“He’s a microwave,” Walla Walla coach Jimmy Hill said of Torkelsen. “He gets hot in a hurry and can be done pretty quick.
“We knew Chad could shoot the ball, that’s why we recruited him,” Hill said. “The adjustment has taken him a little longer than we thought, but we knew if we could just keep getting him shots and working on his confidence offensively (he could shoot).”
Three players combined for almost all of the Eagles’ offense, as Akeem Smith scored 24 points and Colton Cochran added 19 to Burkett’s 28. West Coast Baptist’s next leading scorer was Ryan Molencupp with six points.
Miguel Martinez scored 10 points and also pulled down 10 boards for the Wolves for another double-double.
After Luckkett’s 3 tied the game at 8-all with 14:16 left to play in the first, neither team could seperate.
A lay-in from WWU’s Miguel Martinez gave the Wolves their largest lead of the half, 24-20 midway through the period. But momentum swung back into WCBC’s favor as the Eagles went on a 13-2 run.
Walla Walla regrouped after a fiery timeout with Hill, and following a stretch where WWU pickpocketed the Eagles on three consecutive in-bound attempts, the Wolves pulled withing a baskt, 38-36.
Torkelsen was fouled on a last-ditch 3-point shot at the end of the half and made two of three freebies to send the Wolves to the break up 48-46.
Walla Walla cooled slightly in the second half, shooting 42.1 percent from the field compared to 46.2 percent in the first. But Walla Walla was able to hold WCBC to 32 percent shooting in the second the Eagles hit 48 percent in the first.
“In the first half the defense was a little bit lacking,” Hill said, “but we were good with the ball and efficient offensively; second half we played better defensively but then had too many turnovers. So if we ever get those two things balanced where we’re playing good defensively and offensively at the same time, we’re going to be a pretty good basketball team.”
Walla Walla and West Coast traded baskets to 56-all to open the second half but the Wolves upped the tempo and WCBC went on a five-minute dry spell.
Akeem Smith made a three-point play at 10:26 to break the scoreless streak and pull West Coast Baptist within 6, 66-60, but Walla Walla made their lead stand.
This is a just the second conference game for Walla Walla this season, their first coming in November with a 69-62 loss to Portland Bible College.
The Wolves, an NAIA Division II school, have faced a murderer’s row of higher-level schools in their non-conference slate. Their opponents included NCAA Division I Boise State and Idaho, NCAA Division II Central Washington, and Eastern Oregon, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA Division II coaches’ poll.
“A lot of people kind of look at us weird for who we schedule, but when we get this thing going we’re going to win some basketball games,” Hill said. “All those games serve a purpose. So that on nights like this, when other teams are being physical or making shots, we know how to work our way through it because we’ve played as good a competition as anyone in the country and we can get through that.”
Walla Walla plays West Coast Baptist in Portland today at 2 p.m. in a neutral-site matchup.
WALLA WALLA 90, WEST COAST BAPTIST 79
WEST COAST BAPTIST (79) — Smith 9-15 3-4 24, Molencupp 2-8 1-2 6, Cochran 8-16 0-0 19, Tibbs 0-0 0-2 0, Humber 0-0 0-0 0, Thorogood 0-0 0-0 0, Holmes 0-4 0-1 0, Rasmussen 1-6 0-0 2, Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Osborn 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 27-68 15-26 79.
WALLA WALLA (90) — Spady 6-14 4-5 16, Marshall 1-4 1-3 3, Martinez 5-10 0-0 10, Luckett 5-16 5-7 17, Thorn 1-5 0-0 2, Hough 2-6 3-3 7, Torkelsen 8-13 2-2 22, Heinrich 0-1 0-0 0, Hofman 0-1 0-0 0, Patterson 5-5 0-0 11, Woodworth 1-2 0-0 2, Collins 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-77 15-20 90.
Halftime — WW 48-46. 3-point goals — WCB 10-30 (Smith 3, Molencupp, Cochran 3, Burkett 3), WW 7-18 (Luckett 2, Torkelsen 4, Patterson). Total fouls — WCB 19, WW 22. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounding — WCB 32 (Smith 8, Cochran 8), WW 61 (Luckett 13). Turnovers — WCB 18, WW 21. Assists — WCB 5 (Cochran 2), WW 16 (Luckett 4).