Lutes Look to Establish Themselves in NWC Standings
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran (7-8 overall, 5-3 Northwest Conference) hosts Linfield (9-7, 7-1), Friday, 8 p.m.; PLU hosts Pacific (5-13, 1-8), Saturday, 8 p.m; PLU hosts Puget Sound (7-10, 3-5), Tuesday, 8 p.m.
LISTEN TO THE LUTES: You can listen to this weekend's PLU men's basketball games on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma area and also at www.klay1180.com. Long-time announcer Bob Robertson returns to call the action for the Lutes.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Linfield ranks right around the top half in the Northwest Conference in most statistical categories. The Wildcats rank fifth in scoring offense (75.8 points per game) and third in scoring defense (76.9) and scoring margin (-1.1). Linfield's field goal percentage offense (.464) and defense (.427) both rank second in the conference, and the Wildcats are the league's stingiest team against the three-point shot (.308 shooting percentage against). Linfield leads the NWC with 3.38 blocked shots per game. Cody Tesoro ranks third in the league with 17.3 points per game, the only Linfield player ranking in the NWC top 30 in scoring.
THE SERIES: The last decade has not been good for the Lutes in their all-time series against the Wildcats. Entering the 1999-2000 season, Pacific Lutheran owned a 62-34 advantage against Linfield. In the last 10 years, however, the Wildcats have won 18 of their 21 games against the Lutes, including a 13-game winning streak from 1999 to 2005. Overall, Pacific Lutheran still leads the series with a 65-52 record.
ABOUT THE BOXERS: Pacific sits at the bottom of the Northwest Conference standings, but the statistics do not support that rank. The Boxers do not rank last in any of the key statistical categories, and they only rank in the NWC bottom three in two: three-point field goal percentage (7th, .330) and three-point field goals made (8th, 5.06). Pacific ranks sixth in scoring offense (75.4) and fourth in scoring defense (77.7), and the Boxers' -2.2 scoring margin ranks fourth in the league. The Boxers lead the conference in rebounding margin (+5.7) and offensive rebounds (15.44). Ross Bartlett (16.1 points, 9.9 rebunds per game) and LeMar Anglin (13.1, 5.5) rank as Pacific's top two scorers and rebounders. The dynamic duo also leads the team with a .524 and .522 field goal percentage, respectively.
THE SERIES: Pacific has won nine of the past 12 meetings between the two teams in a series that has pretty much always gone the Lutes' way stretching back to the first meeting in PLU's records during the 1939-40 season. The Lutes have boasted winning streaks of 25, 15, 8, 6 and 5 games, while the Boxers' five-win streak from 2003-06 ranks as their longest in the series. Pacific Lutheran won the last meeting to break a four-game streak for Pacific, and the Lutes own a 78-29 overall advantage in the series.
ABOUT THE LOGGERS: One of the typical Northwest Conference powers is going through a rare rebuilding season. Puget Sound ranks fourth in the conference in scoring offense (80.3 points per game), seventh in scoring defense (82.9) and fifth in scoring margin (-2.6). Puget Sound's typically strong shooting has not been present this season, as the Loggers rank eighth in the league with a .412 field goal percentage. Puget Sound also ranks eighth with a .499 opponents' shooting percentage. The Loggers struggle particulary from beyond the arc, with a NWC-worst .270 three-point field goal percentage. Puget Sound's -6.2 rebounding margin also ranks at the bottom of the league, as does the Loggers' 1.59 blocked shots per game. The Loggers' greatest strength is a +6.59 turnover margin, which ranks second in the NWC. Puget Sound boasts four players in the NWC top 21 scoring list: Austin Boyce (9th, 15.2 points per game), Kaleb Shelton (16th, 12.5), Nadav Heyman (17th, 12.1) and Colin Koach (21st, 11.2). Heyman ranks second in the conference with 2.21 steals per game.
THE SERIES: Pacific Lutheran owns a 64-59 advantage in a series that has been marked by winning streaks by both teams. The Lutes own the series' longest streak with 21 consecutive wins from 1954 to 1960 and also boast an eight-game streak. The Loggers had a 12-game streak between 1968 and 1996 and a 13-game streak from 2003 through the team's last meeting a couple weeks ago. The Lutes' win at Puget Sound was PLU's first win against its cross-town rival since a 49-46 win in 2003.
PLU 96, WILLAMTTE 90: Kyle MacTaggart scored 24 of his game-high 31 points in the second half on Friday night to lead Pacific Lutheran to a 96-90 win over the Willamette Bearcats at Cone Field House. The 31 points was a career-high for MacTaggart, a 6-4 junior wing from Arizona, and topped his previous best of 26 points set one week ago in a home win over Whitman. After scoring seven points in the opening half, MacTaggart scored half of the Lutes' 48 second-half points. He made 9-of-15 shots from the field, including a pair of three-point baskets, and also hit 4-of-5 at the foul line in the final period. In addition to his point production, MacTaggart also led the Lutes with nine rebounds. James Conti scored 16 points, Curtis Trondsen came off the bench to tally 13, and Tony Polis added 11 points and eight assists in his first start of the season. The Lutes shot 48 percent (35-of-73) from the field, including 46 percent (12-of-26) from beyond the arc. Willamette was even more proficient, making 56 percent (35-of-63) of its shots, but came up short in three point accuracy at 33 percent (8-of-24).
GEORGE FOX 92, PLU 67: Pacific Lutheran hung with host George Fox for the better part of the first half, but the Bruins used a strong final 20 minutes to defeat the Lutes, 92-67, Saturday night at Wheeler Sports Center. The Lutes opened the game with seven unanswered points in the first minute. The Bruins came back to take a 10-9 lead, and they grabbed the advantage for good at 17-16 on Stephen Wiseley's jumper with 11:15 left in the first half. PLU stayed with the hosts for most of the remainder of the half, pulling to within two points, 33-31, on a Tony Polis free throw with 5:10 showing on the clock. George Fox pulled away again and took a 45-36 lead into the intermission. The second half was all Bruins as the Lutes cooled considerably from the field. George Fox built its biggest lead at 88-57 on Jon Adrian's jumper with 2:29 left in the game. Kyle MacTaggart led the Lutes with 10 points, all coming in the first half, and he also grabbed six rebounds. James Conti scored nine points and led the Lutes with three assists, and Curtis Trondsen tallied nine points off of the bench.
LUTES BY THE NUMBERS: Kyle MacTaggart, a 6-4 junior wing from Goodyear, Ariz., leads the Lutes in scoring with an average of 15.4 points per game. James Conti, a 5-10 sophomore point guard from Edmonds, averages 10.1 points and 3.67 assists per game, while Victor Bull, a 6-7 junior post from San Francisco, averages 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Bull averages 27.3 minutes per game to lead a team that has eight players seeing an average of at least 14 minutes per contest. PLU is shooting 38 percent from three-point range but needs to figure out how to slow down its opponents, who are making nearly 49 percent of their attempts from the field. They've also got to figure out how to get more first half offense - while PLU has out-scored its opponents by 13 points (589-576) overall in the second half this season, the Lutes have been out-scored by 81 points (598-517) in the opening period. The Lutes, additionally, are a minus 0.8 rebounds per game compared to their opponents.
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