Lutes Look to End Three-Game Skid at "Whits"
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran (8-11 overall, 6-6 Northwest Conference) visits Whitman (10-11, 4-8), Friday, 6 p.m.; PLU at Whitworth (19-2, 12-0), Saturday, 4 p.m.
FLIP FLOP: The Lutes' men's and women's basketball games played this weekend will be switched with the men playing first, followed by the women.
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.
IN THE HUNT: Pacific Lutheran, currently ranked fifth in the Northwest Conference standings, remains in the hunt for a conference postseason tournament bid. The top four finishers during the regular season earn spots in the NWC tournament, which is scheduled to begin with semifinal games on Thursday, Feb. 25, followed by the title game on Saturday, Feb. 27.
ABOUT THE MISSIONARIES: Whitman plays an up-tempo, high-scoring style, ranking second-best in the Northwest Conference in scoring offense (84.7 points per game) and second-worst in scoring defense (83.3). The Missionaries' +1.3 scoring margin ranks behind only conference-leader Whitworth (+14.7), with those teams being the only two in the NWC with a positive scoring margin. The Missionaries rank last in both field goal percentage (.402) and field goal percentage defense (.502), as well as rebounding defense (42.7). Whitman's -5.0 rebounding margin ranks second-worst in the conference, ahead of only Puget Sound's -5.2. The Missionaries rank at the top or bottom of several offensive categories, ranking first in steals (11.24 per game), turnover margin (+7.14) and offensive rebounds (15.29 per game), while ranking last in assists (11.19 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (0.65). Whitman boasts four double-digit scorers, all ranking in the NWC top-30 in scoring: Brandon Shaw (8th, 15.5 points per game), Justin Artis (20th, 11.5), LuQuam Thompson (tied-21st, 11.4) and Peter Clark (26th, 10.4). Shaw leads the league in steals (2.38 per game), with Artis ranked fourth (1.95).
THE SERIES: Pacific Lutheran has dominated Whitman since the two teams first met during the 1953-54 season. The Lutes own a 69-30 record in the series, including five separate streaks of at least six consecutive wins. The two teams split last season's contests, the Lutes taking a 105-97 victory in the first meeting in Walla Walla and Whitman pulling out a tight 69-68 win in the second game in Parkland.
THE LAST TIME: Pacific Lutheran beat the visiting Whitman Missionaries, 84-76, with a win that featured a second half rally from a seven-point deficit. Pacific Lutheran took an early 8-3 lead, but the first half featured several ties and lead changes until the closing minutes when the Lutes were able to open up an eight-point bulge, 42-34, on Cameron Reister's layup with 49 seconds left in the period. Whitman closed out the half with four straight points on a LuQuam Thompson jumper and two David Michaels free throws. The Missionaries built on that momentum in the opening minutes of the second half, taking their largest lead of the game at 51-44 on a free throw by Thompson with 15:08 remaining in the contest. At that point, the Lutes replied with a crucial 21-5 run to build a 65-56 advantage with 8:40 remaining. MacTaggart scored nine points and Andrew Earnest added seven more during the game-changing run. The Lutes led by as much as 11 points, 79-68, with 2:15 left when the Missionaries made a final push. Brandon Shaw's jumper in the lane with 47 seconds left cut the deficit 81-76, but they would not score after that and the Lutes closed out the game for the victory.
ABOUT THE PIRATES: Whitworth is clearly the class of the Northwest Conference this season, leading the league in scoring offense (84.9 points per game) and scoring defense (70.2), as well as field goal percentage offense (.484) and defense (.405). The Pirates' +14.7 scoring margin is more than 13 points better than second-ranked Whitman. While Whitworth's 38.5 rebounds per game is "only" third-best in the NWC, the Pirates' allow a league-low rebounds to opponents and rank second in the conference with a +4.5 rebounding margin. The Pirates rank first in assists (16.86 per game) and assist/turnover ratio (1.35), as well as three-point field goals made (9.14 per game). Whitworth boasts three scorers in the NWC top 13 - Nate Montgomery (5th, 16.7 points per game), David Riley (9th, 15.2) and Eric Beal (13th, 14.0) - with Bo Gregg also scoring in double figures (25th, 10.5). Montgomery ranks first in the conference in field goal percentage (.608) and fourth in rebounding (7.5 per game), while Beal leads the league in assists (6.24 per game), second in assist/turnover ratio (2.38) and third in steals (2.05). Riley connects on a league-best 44.8 percent of his three-point attempts, with Gregg and Jack Loofburrow also making at least 40 percent.
THE SERIES: Whitworth has won the last eight meetings with the Lutes to pull ahead in the overall series at 65-64. Pacific Lutheran dominated the series between the first meeting in the 1946-47 season and the 1980-81 season. After the teams' first meeting in the 1980-81 season, the Lutes held a 50-24 advantage in the series. Since that time, the Pirates have gone 41-14 aganst the Lutes. Whitworth swept last season's contests by scores of 88-60 and 83-57.
THE LAST TIME: Pacific Lutheran struggled at the free throw line early and from all over the floor late as the visiting Whitworth Pirates pulled away to a 75-52 Northwest Conference victory in Olson Auditorium. Some hot three-point shooting for the Lutes kept them close for the first 15 minutes. Curtis Trondsen finished the half a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc to lead PLU. However, missed free throws - PLU made only one of six attempts from the charity stripe in the last five minutes of the first half - plagued the Lutes down the stretch as Whitworth pulled away with a 17-7 run. The Pirates went into halftime with a 50-36 lead. After the break, the PLU offense never again found its rhythm. The Lutes shot only 19.2 percent (5-of-26) from the field in the second half and went 0-for-5 from three-point range as Whitworth pulled away to a 24-point lead with 8:40 left to play. PLU inched to within 20 on a couple of Kyle MacTaggart free throws at the six-minute mark, but the Lutes never got closer than that.
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