By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer
PARKLAND – The Pacific Lutheran men's basketball team showed relentless effort on both ends of the floor Saturday night, as PLU built a 39-12 first-half lead and never looked back in an 81-63 Northwest Conference win over the Wildcats.
PLU held Linfield to 22.2 percent shooting (6-of-27) in the first half, while the Lutes shot 48.4 percent (15-of-31) during that same period to create a 43-19 half time lead. The key run was a 10-minute stretch late in the first half. The score was 12-10 in favor of PLU with 12:06 on the clock when Kyle Sawtell hit a 3-pointer that sparked 19 straight points for the Lutes as part of a 27-2 run.
The Lute 3-point offense could not be stopped in the first half, as PLU shot 62.5 percent from long-range (5-of-8). Meanwhile, Linfield did not find refuge beyond the arc, shooting 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from deep. Overall, the Lutes shot mad 15 of their 31 first-half shot attempts (48.4) percent.
"I thought the first half of just basketball was almost... not quite, but perfect," PLU head coach Steve Dickerson said. "The passing, the made shots, the inside-out ball movement. And we defended. We can defend when we have half-a-notion to defend."
Bryce Miller hit nearly every shot he took against Linfield. The senior post scored the first seven points of the game for the Lutes. He led the way in scoring as he dropped 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting while playing only 23 minutes. He also added five rebounds and three assists to go along with his scoring outburst.
"It was just one of those nights where you feel like you can put up anything and it's going to have a chance," Miller said. "I got going early. I had a good game when were traveled to Linfield earlier this season. I knew if I got going early we would have a pretty good chance of winning this game. Jared Christy found me; Erik Swartout had a couple great passes to me. Everyone was hitting from outside, which makes it easier on me, because teams can't double-team the post. It was a great win for us. Its puts us in position moving forward to make a good postseason push."
The Lutes had 10 players contribute points to the win. Dylan Foreman was second on the team in scoring, tallying 15 points and seven rebounds. Christy had 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Brandon Lester had nine points on the night, while grabbing three rebounds. Sawtell added eight points in 18 minutes off the bench.
As a team the Lutes shot the ball well in both halves. PLU finished the game with a field goal percentage of 50.8 percent (30-of-59). The Lutes were even better from deep, hitting 53.8 percent (7-of-13) from long-range.
"We took 3-points shot when we were open," Dickerson said. "We did not force them."
PLU improved to 14-7 overall this season. The team is 7-5 in Northwest Conference play, and sits tied for third in the conference standings with a three-game lead for a conference tournament spot. The Lutes will travel to Oregon next weekend to take on Pacific Friday at 8 p.m. and Lewis & Clark Saturday at 6 p.m.