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Lester leads Lutes to 79-74 road upset of No. 16 Whitman

Brandon Lester / Photo by Bailey Plumb
Brandon Lester / Photo by Bailey Plumb

By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer

WALLA WALLA – Brandon Lester made six 3-pointers – including the go-ahead 3 in the final minute – and scored 27 points to lead Pacific Lutheran to a 79-74 Northwest Conference men's basketball upset of 16th-ranked Whitman Saturday night at Sherwood Center.

The No. 2 scorer in the NWC got it done from downtown against Whitman, shooting 6-of-8 from long-range to finish 8-of-17 overall while adding five free throws in six attempts. PLU scored the final nine points of the game, with Lester tallying the last six on a 3 and a trio of free throws.

"It was a good night for us tonight," Lester said. "We were upset from the night before. We pushed the ball, played good defense and rebounded well. We were aggressive on offense, got to the foul line a lot and made the shots to help us win the game."

Lester received plenty of help from a Lute team that finished the night with four double-digit scorers. Sophomore guard Dylan Foreman shot 5-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, and made all five of his free throw attempts to finish with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Meanwhile Jared Christy led the Lute big men with a double-double, pouring in 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Christy made a key 3-pointer with a minute-and-a-half to play to shrink a four-point deficit to one and set the stage for Lester's final-minute heroics. Bryce Miller shot 5-of-9 from the field, scoring 10 points and gathering eight rebounds to go with four assists.

"We knew we had to defend better," PLU head coach Steve Dickerson said. "When we make shots, we always have a chance. We out-rebounded them 45-32. Erik Swartout did a great job of being a floor general. We played a little more half-court than we usually do, and it worked out."

PLU held Whitman to nearly 20 points below its season scoring average, and both teams shot a near identical percentage from the field. PLU shot 43.9 percent (29-of-66), while Whitman finished the night 43.5 percent (27-of-62). Both teams shot 83.3 percent from the free throw line, as PLU made 10 of its 12 attempts and Whitman made 15 of its 18 attempts.

The Lutes' big shooting advantage came beyond the 3-point line, as they shot 52.4 percent (11-of-21) from long-range while holding the Missionaries to 26.3 percent (5-of-19). The Lutes gained another advantage on the glass with 45 total rebounds, 13 more than Whitman.

With the win, PLU splits the weekend road trip to face two teams ranked in the top 20 in the latest poll and finishes the first half of NWC play tied for third in the standings with a 4-4 record, 11-6 overall. The Lutes will look to carry that momentum into the second half of the conference season, which begins Tuesday when the Lutes travel to cross-town rival Puget Sound for an 8 p.m. matchup.

"It means a whole lot going into the second half of conference play," Dickerson said of the win. "It puts us near the top of our conference. It proves that we can beat any team when we compete."