PLU Opens 2012 At Home Against The Whits
THIS WEEK: The Pacific Lutheran University men's basketball team returns to the court this weekend with two Northwest Conference games against Whitworth University and Whitman College. At 5-6 on the season, the Lutes have not played since their Dec. 22 loss to Wheaton College at the Trinity National Tournament in San Antonio, Texas. Despite the squad's losing record, Pacific Lutheran is 2-0 in NWC play after registering road victories over Willamette University and Linfield College in early December. Now, with non-conference play in the rear-view mirror, the Lutes must turn their attention to important conference games week in and week out. Friday night, the Lutes host defending NWC champion Whitworth. Game time is set for 8 p.m. The next night, Pacific Lutheran hosts Whitman College. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
LIVE STATS AND LISTEN LIVE: Live stats and an audio webcast of every Pacific Lutheran home game are available and can be accessed on the www.golutes.com site. Click on the Live Stats and Listen Live links on the right side of the page and click on the appropriate links. This weekend, PLU students Daniel Herr and Kellen Westering will call the action. Starting with the Jan. 10 home game against Puget Sound, Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Robertson will be courtside to call the remainder of the PLU home and road games. Those games can be heard in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM.
SHOOTING STAR: Guard Drew Earnest has been shooting lights out from three-point range for the Lutes in 2011-12. The junior has made 50 percent (30-for-60) of his three-point shots this season, ranking him second in the NWC. In addition, his three-point percentage ranks seventh in the nation among all Division III players. Averaging 14.8 points per contest, Ernest ranks eighth in the NWC in that category.
A LOOK AT THE PIRATES: Two-time defending NWC champion Whitworth University comes into this weekend's match up with a No. 11 ranking in this week's D3hoops.com's Top 25 poll. The Pirates are 9-2 this season and 2-0 in NWC play. Senior Felix Friedt leads the Whitworth offense this season averaging 17.9 points per game. The 6-8 center is also averaging 8.3 rebounds per game. Guard Idris Lasisi ranks sixth in the NWC with 15.6 points per contest. First-year head coach Matt Logie leads the Pirates following the departure of long-time WU coach Jim Hayford, who took the job at Eastern Washington University. The Lutes and Pirates have met 133 times in the series history dating back to the 1946-47 season. Whitworth is currently on a 12-game winning streak over PLU, including a first-round conference tournament win last year. In that game, the Lutes trailed the Pirates, then ranked No. 2 in the country, by just one point with 4:35 to play before the hosts pulled away.
ON A MISSION: The Whitman College Missionaries stand at 8-3 this season with a 1-1 record in NWC play. In their opening weekend of NWC action, Whitman was upset by George Fox University before beating Lewis & Clark College on its home floor. Forward David Michaels leads the Missionaries offense with 15.6 points per game. He also leads the team with 5.9 boards per contest. Saturday night's meeting will be the 103 between these two programs. The Lutes hold a 70-32 advantage in the series although the teams have alternated wins for the past seven meetings. Whitman's program is on the rise under fourth-year head coach Eric Bridgeland. After years of second-tier status in the conference, the Missionaries advanced to the NWC postseason tournament championship game a year ago before seeing their season end at the hands of No. 2-ranked Whitworth.
RECENT ACTION: Pacific Lutheran split a pair of games in December at Trinity University's National Invitational Basketball Tournament held in San Antonio, Texas. The Lutes defeated Redlands (Calif.), 74-62, before falling to Wheaton (Ill.), 70-65.
PLU 74, REDLANDS 62: Drew Earnest drilled eight three-point field goals on the way to a game-high 28 points on Dec. 21 to lead Pacific Lutheran past Redlands, 74-62. Earnest found the shooting range in Webster Gym and finished 8-for-9 from beyond the three-point arc. He ended up one three-pointer from the school record of nine set by Erik Peterson against Mesa State on Dec. 30, 1995. Kai Hoyt scored 17 points, Cameron Schilling tallied 13 and James Conti added 10 more for the Lutes. Hoyt and Schilling tied for team-high rebounding honors with seven apiece, and both Schilling and Conti had six assists. The Lutes finished the game shooting 45 percent from the floor (26-for-58), including a blistering 53 percent from three-point land (10-for-19). The Bulldogs led 40-34 with 16:49 remaining before PLU responded with a 13-4 run, capped by Earnest's three-pointer with 10:47 to play, to take a 47-44 advantage. The Lutes would not trail for the remainder of the game. Earnest's eighth-and-final triple of the game gave the Lutes a 65-52 margin with 3:15 to play, and they closed out the game by shooting 7-for-8 from the foul line in the last two minutes.
WHEATON 70, PLU 65: PLU battled highly regarded Wheaton on even terms for 40 minutes on Dec. 22, but the Thunder made a couple of big plays in the final seconds to hold on for a 70-65 victory. Wheaton, ranked 28th in the D3hoops.com national poll, held a 66-62 lead when Cameron Reister buried a three-point bomb with 12 seconds remaining to pull the Lutes to within a point. With seven seconds left, Tad Fisher hit a pair of free throws to give the Thunder a 68-65 lead. PLU had an opportunity to tie the game with a three-point basket but instead turned the ball over, resulting in a game-ending steal and dunk by Aaron Garriott. Cameron Schilling led the Lutes with 15 points, followed by Drew Earnest with 13 and Zachary Klein with 12 off of the bench. Earnest knocked down all three of his three-point attempts and finished the tournament 11-for-12 from beyond the arc in Webster Gym. James Conti finished the game with nine points, five assists and three steals, and Schilling paced the team with six rebounds. PLU shot 49 percent (23-for-47) from the field and continued its outstanding marksmanship from three-point land with 64 percent accuracy (9-for-14). The Lutes hurt themselves at the foul line, shooting 10-for-17.
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