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January 17, 2011

Lutes Head South For Crucial Conference Games

THIS WEEK:  After a hard-fought loss to Lewis & Clark College this past weekend, the Pacific Lutheran University mens basketball team will head to Oregon to take on Linfield College and Willamette University.  First up for the Lutes will be the Linfield Wildcats when the two teams meet in McMinnville on Friday night.  The Wildcats are 7-8 overall, 3-3 in Northwest Conference action.  The game will be the 130th meeting between the two teams, with the Lutes leading the overall series 66-53.  Center K.C. Wiser leads the Wildcats, and the NWC, in scoring, averaging 22.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a contest.  The Lute big men will have a tough time down low with Wiser, but senior Victor Bull is averaging 1.2 blocks per game and will be up to the task against Linfield.  The last 10 games have gone the Wildcats way, with the Lutes only winning four games in the past five years.  On Saturday, the Lutes will head to the Oregon capital of Salem to take on the Bearcats of Willamette University.  Willamette is averaging the third highest point total of NWC teams with 81.0 a game, yet are last in scoring defense as they give up almost 89 points to opponents.  Five of the Bearcats' players are averaging over ten points a game, with junior Taylor Mounts leading the team with 18 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest.  The Lutes trail in the all-time series, 49-51, against Willamette, and the Bearcats have won four of the last five games between the two sides.  Tip off for each game will be at 8 p.m. as the Lutes look to add to their NWC win tally for the year.

STROKING FROM LONG RANGE:  Sophomore guard Andrew Earnest is shooting .477 (21-44) from three-point range this season, ranking him fourth in PLU single-season percentage, if the strong shooting continues.  The .477 average is good for second in the current NWC three-point rankings.  

LEWIS & CLARK 77, PLU 66:  Visiting Lewis & Clark College got out to an early lead behind hot three-point shooting and then held off a stern Pacific Lutheran challenge in the waning minutes Friday night to take a 77-66 Northwest Conference men's basketball victory over the Lutes in Olson Auditorium.  Behind 23 points from Kelly Edwards and 17 more from PJ Taylor, the Pioneers (11-3 overall, 4-1 conference) stayed within a game of first-place Whitworth in the Northwest Conference standings. Pacific Lutheran (8-6, 3-3) got 16 points from James Conti and 15 more from Andrew Earnest in the loss.  In the early part of the game, the Pioneers were hitting long-range jumpers on one end and the Lutes were answering mostly with mid-range jumpers and layups at the other. Edwards and Taylor got their team off to a good start with back-to-back threes, though the Lutes eventually grabbed an 11-8 lead on consecutive layups by Kyle MacTaggart and Conti about six minutes into the contest.  Edward nailed another three to tie the game at 11-11, and he followed with another long ball with 12:19 left in the half to put his team on top, 14-11. Lewis & Clark would not trail the rest of the way. The Pioneers kept the Lutes at arm's length for most of the remainder of the half, though they used a 6-0 spurt, including another three by Taylor, to grab a 37-28 advantage. Lewis & Clark settled for a 40-33 halftime lead.  A 15-4 run over a 4 1/2-minute period in the middle of the second half put the Pioneers on top  71-51 with 7:04 on the clock, and the game seemed to be out of PLU's reach.  The Lutes had one last surge of their own, scoring the next 15 consecutive points to cut the deficit to 71-66 with 1:18 left. Earnest hit threes on either end of the run and Conti scored seven straight points to highlight the spurt.  That was all the scoring for the Lutes, who missed their last five shots while the Pioneers were closing the game by making 6-for-8 at the charity stripe in the final 1:12.  Lewis & Clark shot 56 percent for the game (27-for-48) and 46 percent (11-for-24) from beyond the arc. PLU shot 45 percent (28-for-62) overall and 38 percent (5-for-13) from long range.  In addition to his 16 points, Conti had six assissts and two steals in 30 minutes of action, while the 5-11 Earnest worked inside for seven rebounds, tying L&C's Edwards for game-high honors.

PLU 71, UPS 59:  Pacific Lutheran defeated the Puget Sound Loggers on the Olson Auditorium hardwood for the first time since January 24, 2003, taking a 71-59 decision Tuesday night over the Loggers in Northwest Conference men's basketball action.  With the victory, their sixth in the last seven games, the Lutes (8-5 overall) moved into third place in the conference standing with a 3-2 record. The loss dropped the Loggers (5-9 overall) to 2-3 in the NWC.  The last time that PLU beat the Loggers at home was by a 49-46 score seven seasons ago, and on this occasion the Lutes made some big plays down the stretch to seal the win.  The Loggers rallied from a 43-28 deficit behind some deadly long-range shooting, including a pair of long bombs by Ryan Rogers, to take a 48-47 lead when Caleb Gauff hit a trey with 10:41 left.  The Lutes regained the lead at 51-50 and then scored six unanswered points, four by Kai Hoyt, to take a 57-50 advantage with 6:02 on the clock. The Loggers never got closer than four points the rest of the way. Holding onto a five-point lead, the Lutes picked up a key offensive rebound and layup by Kyle MacTaggart with 1:49 left to go up by seven points. Curtis Trondsen, who led the Lutes with 16 points, then hit a dagger three-point shot to put the Lutes on top 63-55 with one minute remaining.  PLU iced the game at the foul line with MacTaggart, Victor BullJames Conti andAndrew Earnest all hit a pair.  Trondsen came off the bench to shoot 7-for-13, including 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, on the way to his game-high 16 points. In addition to MacTaggart's 14 points, Conti added 10, four assists and three steals. Bull was just that on the boards, tying for game high honors with nine. Earnest had a strong game off the bench with nine points, six rebounds and no turnovers in 29 minutes.  Rogers cashed in on 5-for-6 three-point shooting to lead his team with 15 points, followed by Anthony Gittens and Edrick Egberuare with 10 apiece. Egbruare led his team with nine rebounds and four assists.