By Christian Bond, PLU Sports Information Student Writer
PARKLAND – Dylan Foreman hit a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left in the game to bring the Pacific Lutheran men's basketball team to within two points of third-ranked Whitworth, however PLU never pulled closer as the Pirates held off the upset-minded Lutes 73-31 in the 2015-16 regular season finale.
PLU recognized seniors Seth Anderson, Shane Jacob and Bryce Miller prior to tipoff, and the Lutes finished the regular season with a 16-9 overall record and a 9-7 Northwest Conference mark. That record is PLU's best since the 1997-98 season, while the Lutes' No. 3 spot in the NWC standings is the program's best since 1998-99.
The game saw seven lead changes as the two teams battled back and forth. PLU outshot Whitworth from deep, as the Lutes made 50 percent (8-of-16) from 3-point range, compared to Whitworth's 38.9 percent (7-of-18) long-range performance. PLU also shot well from the charity stripe, as the Lutes made 85 percent (17-of-20) from the free throw line, edging out Whitworth's 72.7 percent (16-of-22) free throw effort. Both teams attempted 53 total shots, but the Pirates were able to convert two more than the Lutes, shooting 47.2 percent (25-of-53) from the floor, compared to PLU's 43.4 percent (23-of-53) field goal percentage.
"During the course of the game, we had about six bad possessions," PLU head coach Steve Dickerson said. "What happens is, you got make a shot in the last second, and you don't get the shot. Its the empty possessions during the game that kill you."
One night after reaching 1,000 career points, Brandon Lester had a big night with 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-8 from deep. Foreman supplied 17 points, with some help coming from a 5-of-6 performance at the free throw line. Miller played well in the paint, adding 14 points and eight rebounds, while Erik Swartout had seven points, six rebounds and four assists.
The two teams were even in several categories. Both teams grabbed 31 rebounds, and each team capitalized on second chance points equally, scoring eight points on extra opportunities. Both PLU and Whitworth dished out nine assists. Both defenses caused several turnovers, resulting in the Pirates turning the ball over 16 times, one fewer than PLU's 17 turnovers.
"Our guys hung in there," Dickerson said. "We played two pretty good teams back-to-back, and we played them pretty well. I told them after the game that we have a new season, and we belong. We can play with these guys."
PLU will square off against ninth-ranked Whitman on Thursday, Feb. 25, in a Northwest Conference Tournament semifinal contest, with tipoff set for 7 p.m. in Walla Walla. After his team's performance this weekend, coach Dickerson is comfortable with where his team sits heading into the tournament.
"As long as they believe we belong, we will be okay," Dickerson said. "We do what we do, battle and scrape; sometimes it's not pretty, but I am proud of them."