But the Bearcats took the lead with under two minutes to play and held on to beat the Leopards 72-66 Sunday at the Mission Inn Thanksgiving Classic inside Kaiser Permanente Arena.
Rice went 7-12 from the field with a three-pointer on his way to scoring his team-high 19 points. The junior added seven rebounds and an assist. Costa grabbed five rebounds and a steal.
After Costa put the Leopards back on top with 2:35 left to play, Willamette's Jordan Jenkins made one of two free throws to tie the game 64-64. The Bearcats sank a three on their next possession to take the lead for good.
La Verne had a chance to tie the game with less than a minute left in the game but Willamette forced a turnover to end the threat. The Bearcats made a pair of free throws to put the game away.
Evan Gustafson also finished in double figures, scoring 11 points on 3-5 shooting with five free throws. The junior also grabbed five boards.
Cole Currie finished with six rebounds and five points.
After both squads traded leads in the opening minutes, the Leopards went on a 12-2 run late in the first half and took a 35-29 lead into the break. The Leopards controlled their lead for the first 10 minutes of the second half before Willamette tied the game 50-50 with 8:37 left on the clock.
Season Impact: The Leopards fall to 0-5 early in the season. Willamette improves to 2-1.
Next Game: The Leopards open SCIAC play on Wednesday, December 6 when they host the Whittier College Poets a 5 p.m.
Costa was named to the All-Tournament Team after finishing the weekend with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Sam Gabbard -UCSC
Andrew Jones - UCSC
Victor Costa- La Verne
Leighton Kingma- Pacific Lutheran
Jordan Jenkins- Willamette
Nico Troplent (MVP) -Willamette