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Lutes look to strengthen NWC position and reach coaching milestone this weekend

Photo by Bailey Plumb
Photo by Bailey Plumb

By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer

PARKLAND – The Pacific Lutheran men's basketball team will look to repeat the hot shooting performance it had last week against Willamette this weekend as the Lutes host George Fox Friday at 8 p.m. and Linfield Saturday at 6 p.m.

With six games remaining in the regular season, PLU is currently fourth in the Northwest Conference standings and looking to strengthen that position against a pair of teams tied for sixth. In the midst of the late-season run, PLU head coach Steve Dickerson is nearing a milestone with the program. The team's next win will be Dickerson's 100th career win at PLU, which will make him the fourth coach in program history to reach triple figures in the win column. As he reflected on the round number, Dickerson was quick to credit those who have helped him along the way and admitted to rarely paying attention to career victory totals.

"I never know how many wins or losses that I have," Dickerson said. "It is always about the next game or the next season. I appreciate the support that I have received from the PLU community, especially athletic director Laurie Turner, my assistant coaches over the years, associate head coach Brian Kovacevich, and, of course, all of the young men who have made up our teams. We have had great kids over the years, and working with the team has made me a better person. Also the support of my wife has been monumental; being a coach's wife is very, very, very hard!"

Senior Bryce Miller has played 90 games for PLU and Coach Dickerson in his four-year collegiate career. He has started every game for the Lutes this season and statistically is having his best year, averaging 12.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. The 6-foot-6-inch post commented on what it has been like to play for coach Dickerson, particularly this year as the Lutes have already tied their highest win total since 2010-11.

"Coach Dickerson has always preached defense," Miller said. "He prides himself on having the most fundamentally sound team and one that shares the ball. The team we have this year has embraced this style of basketball. Coach cares for each one of us, and he makes that noticeable through his thoughtfulness. That was one of the main reasons why I attended PLU. Playing for Coach Dickerson has been a pleasure and a grind that all of us have embraced."

George Fox comes to PLU on Friday, with tipoff set for 8 p.m. The Last time these two teams met down in Newberg, junior guard Brandon Lester erupted for a career-high 31 points. Lester went 11 of 20 from the field, hitting four out his 10 three point attempts and shooting 5-of-6 at the free throw line. The game featured six lead changes as PLU drew to within one point with two minutes remaining at 73-72. George Fox made a three-pointer, and the Bruins sealed an 82-74 win with free throws down the stretch. Jared Christy had a double-double for PLU scoring 14 points and grabbing 14 rebounds and Dylan Foreman added 10 points.

Saturday's game will also be a rematch of a close contest down in Oregon. Miller led the Lutes with 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats, but both team struggled shooting the ball. PLU shot 32.7 percent (17-of-52) for the game while Linfield made 29.8 percent (17-of-57) of its field goal attempts. Christy scored five straight points to tie the game at 51-51 with 33 seconds left, but Linfield's Kevin Hurly drove the lane, spun towards the basket and converted the game-winning layup with only five seconds on the clock.

At 12-7 overall and 5-5 in conference play, the Lutes are one game behind Puget Sound for third in the NWC standings, one ahead of Pacific and two ahead of both this weekend's opponents. As PLU looks ahead to the matchups this weekend, the shooting struggles down in Oregon and the two close losses don't carry any weight.

"The past is irrelevant," Dickerson said. "These games are big for us because they are our next two games and we need to win to keep pace with our playoff hopes."