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Playoff Implications On The Line For PLU Men

Drew Earnest (10)

LUTES SET TO SQUARE OFF WITH LOGGERS: The Pacific Lutheran University men's basketball team travels to the other side of Tacoma Tuesday night to face off with the University of Puget Sound in a game with major Northwest Conference playoff implications. Pacific Lutheran currently sits in fifth place in the NWC standings with a 7-5 mark in conference action. With an overall record of 10-11 on the season, PLU is on the outside looking in on the NWC playoff picture because only the top four finishers during the regular conference season qualify for the postseason tournament. However, while the Lutes are currently one spot out of the four-team postseason conference tournament, the team is only one game back of second place in the standings as three teams are tied with an 8-4 mark in conference. With only four games remaining on the schedule, every game down the stretch will prove vital. Tuesday night's game on the campus of UPS is scheduled to tip-off at 8 p.m.

LISTEN LIVE: Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Robertson will be courtside to call the remainder of the PLU home and road basketball games. Those games can be heard in the Tacoma area on KLAY 1180 AM, as well as online at www.golutes.com. Click on the Listen Live on the right side of the page and then on the appropriate link.

ON THE TUBE: Tuesday's game between the Lutes and Loggers will be broadcast eleven times on tape delay on TV Tacoma, which is available in Tacoma and Pierce County. TV Tacoma is carried on both the Click! and Comcast Cable systems.  On Click! TV Tacoma can be seen on Channel 12 in the Tacoma City limits and in Pierce County, with the exception of University Place, where it can be found on Channel 21.  On Comcast, TV Tacoma can be seen on Channel 12 in the Tacoma City limits and on Channel 21 in Pierce County. Jeff Lueders will provide the play-by-play for both games. Logger alumni Allison Kalalau and Mark Wells will provide the color commentary. Kalalau, a former Logger player and coach, will join Lueders on the women's broadcast while Wells, a member of the Loggers 1976 national championship team, while join Lueders on the men's broadcast. Wells, incidentally, is the father of former PLU All-America softball player Andrea Wells.

ROLLING WITH THE LOGGERS: With a 8-4 mark in NWC conference action, the University of Puget Sound Loggers are one of three teams locked in a tie for second-place in the conference. With a 16-5 overall record on the season, the Loggers began the year with a 10-game winning streak and have won six of their past seven games. UPS is led by big man Anthony Gittens. The senior leads the squad averaging 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Although the Loggers do not feature a go-to scorer, UPS does rank second in the conference in points per game with 75. Puget Sound also posses a strong presence on the glass as well as the team ranks first in the NWC in rebounds per game (39.8). 

LAST TIME THE TWO TEAMS MET: Junior Cameron Schilling scored the first five points of the game and didn't let up for the rest of the 39 minutes that he was on the floor. As a result, Pacific Lutheran rolled past Puget Sound, 80-62, in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game played on Jan. 10 in Olson Auditorium on the campus of PLU. Pacific Lutheran took its largest lead at 51-30 when Drew Earnest fed Kai Hoyt for a layin with 15:43 remaining in the contest. That bucket came at the end of an 8-0 PLU run that wiped away Puget Sound's final hope of a second half rally. The Loggers had pulled to within 13 points, 43-30, on Nick Holden's layup just 90 seconds earlier. For Puget Sound, the leading scorers were subs Ryan Rogers with 14 points and Rex Holmes with 11. Kaleb Shelton-Johnson had 10 points and Edric Egberuare had eight rebounds in a losing cause.

STILL THINKING PINK: Pacific Lutheran has already hosted Think Pink Breast Cancer Awareness and Coaches Vs. Cancer events at home games this year, but the PLU women's and men's players, coaches and fans will continue their fight against cancer when PLU plays at the University of Puget Sound on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The PLU coaches have agreed to have their players wear their pink gear to show support for the mother of PLU women's player Shelly Kilcup, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2011. Additionally, the Pacific Lutheran players will show their support for Stana Landon, a Puget Sound assistant athletic trainer, who is fighting her second battle against breast cancer. Stana is the best friend of PLU assistant athletic trainer Gen Ludwig. So PLU fans, if you plan to attend either or both Feb. 7 games, make sure to wear your pink to show your support of Mrs. Kilcup and Stana Landon. As a side note, pink ribbons will be sold at the game for $1 each in order to help with Stana's medical bills.

CONTI STANDS ALONE: A week ago Saturday night, senior point guard James Conti registered his 163rd career steal placing atop the PLU career record books. Conti surpassed PLU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Don Brown, who swiped 162 balls in his illustrious career which lasted from 1987 to 1991. Following last weekend's games in eastern Washington, Conti now has 167 career steals. In his final season in the black-and-gold, James is putting together an all-conference type of season. The guard leads the NWC in steals (51) and assists (91). In addition, he is averaging 13.6 points per game, ranking him 11th in the conference, one spot better than his junior teammate, Cameron Schilling, who averages 13.3 points per contest.

PLU AMONG NATIONAL LEADERS IN FEWEST TURNOVERS: Pacific Lutheran ranks ninth in Division III men's basketball in fewest turnovers per game with 11.1. Additionally the team is 38th in turnover-to-assist ratio at 1.18. The previous note mentioned that James Conti has moved to the top of the all-time PLU steals list. He currently ranks 37th in the country with 2.5 steals per game.

TWO TURNOVERS: Lost to some observers in Pacific Lutheran's home win over Willamette on Jan. 28 was the fact that the Lutes turned the ball over only two times, both of those coming in the second half. That is the fewest turnovers in a game of any Northwest Conference team this year, and a quick survey of league sports information directors indicate that it might have tied a conference record for fewest turnovers.

CLOSE CALLS: In last Saturday's 82-80 loss to Whitworth, the Lutes played point-for-point with the nationally ranked Pirates for the second time this season. In early January in Parkland, PLU took the Pirates to overtime before losing 103-94. On Saturday, the Lutes had two looks at a potential go-ahead basket in the closing seconds before falling. PLU's combined losing margin in its five conference losses is 18 points, including the nine-point overtime loss to Whitworth.  Additionally, PLU has two one-point losses, a two-point loss, and a five-point loss.

WHITWORTH 82, PLU 80: Pacific Lutheran pushed 10th-ranked Whitworth to the closing seconds but a final shot wouldn't go down and the Pirates survived, 82-80, in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game played Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. With their fifth straight victory, the Pirates improved to 18-3 overall and at 11-1 are three games clear in first place in the Northwest Conference standings. The Lutes dropped to 10-11, 7-5 following a game it had a chance to win despite never holding a lead. Pacific Lutheran pushed Whitworth for the second time this season. In early January in Parkland, PLU took the nationally ranked Pirates to overtime before losing 103-94. PLU's combined losing margin in its other four conference losses, including tonight's contest, is nine points. Despite hitting 14 three-pointers and 58 percent from beyond the arc, Whitworth had its hands full with the Lutes for the second time this season. The Pirates survived an overtime contest the first time the teams met in early January in Parkland. Wade Gebbers hit three three-pointers in the first two minutes to help the Pirates jump out to a 12-7 lead.  But the Lutes never let the Pirates break away and James Conti's layup tied the game 14-14 before four minutes were gone.  Idris Lasisi hit a three-pointer to give Whitworth a 36-26 lead with nine minutes left in the half.  It would be the Pirates' largest lead of the game as the Lutes continued to respond, getting within 36-33 on a three-pointer by Drew Earnest.  Lasisi's two free throws put Whitworth head 43-35 before the Lutes closed to within 49-44 at halftime on a three-point play by Terrell Williams. PLU score the first two baskets of the second half to pull within 49-48.  It would be the first of six times the Lutes would get within a single point in the second half, but they never took the lead as Whitworth answered with a key basket on every occasion. Jack Loofburrow's three-pointer gave the Pirates a 68-61 lead with 12:41 to play, but Conti sparked a 6-0 PLU run with a driving layup and Whitworth would never lead by as much the rest of the game. Cameron Reister's three-pointer from the right side pulled PLU within 78-77 with 3:57 left, but Lasisi answered with a three of his own for the Pirates 20 seconds later.  After an exchange of missed shots, Reister hit a three from the same spot with 1:50 left to get the Lutes within one point a final time. Whitworth turned the ball over late in its next possession and then PLU had three good looks at a go-ahead basket.  Kai Hoyt's final drive was defended and rebounded by 6-foot 8-inch Felix Friedt with eight seconds left.  Whitworth worked a perfect inbounds play to Dustin McConnell and by the time the Lutes were able to foul, only 1.2 seconds were left.  Mack Larkin made one of two free throws for the final margin. Reister led PLU in scoring for the second straight game, finishing with 20 points. Conti scored 18 and dished out four assists, Cameron Schilling scored 13 points and Hoyt finished with 11. PLU converted 46 percent (24-for-52) of its shots, but the Lutes earned 13 offensive rebounds and got to the free throw line 23 times, where they converted 21 attempts. Wade Gebbers finished with a game-high 22 points for Whitworth, and Loofburrow was 5-for-6 from beyond the arc on the way to a season-high 21 points.  Friedt posted his 11th double-double of the season with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Whitworth was remarkably consistent in the game, making 14-for-24 from three-point range and 14-for-24 from two-point range.  The Pirates were 12-for-13 from the free throw line.

WHITMAN 73, PLU 68: Whitman rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final 5:48 of the game Friday night to defeat Pacific Lutheran, 73-68, in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game played in Sherwood Center. The Missionaries, who improved to 15-5 overall and 8-3 in the conference, won the game at the free throw line where they out-scored the visiting Lutes by 19 points. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, Whitman finishing 21-for-35 compared to just 2-for-12 for the Lutes. PLU was whistled for 24 fouls compared to 14 for the hosts. With the loss, PLU dropped to 10-10 overall and 7-4 in the NWC, one game behind Whitman for second place in the conference standings. The largest lead for both teams was eight points, Whitman earning that twice in the first half before Pacific Lutheran rallied to take a 41-39 halftime edge. There were four ties and 10 lead changes in the opening 20 minutes of action. PLU took its largest lead, 63-55, on Cameron Schilling's three-point bucket with 5:48 left on the clock. Whitman responded by scoring 18 of the game's final 23 points to pull out the victory. David Michaels, the reigning NWC Player of the Week and this game's leading scorer with 30 points, hit four consecutive free throws to get the rally started, Ignas Pavilonis and Drew Raher added three-point baskets, and Josh Duckworth hit a layup to put the Missionaries on top, 67-66, with 1:52 left. They tacked five more points onto the lead, including a three-point play by Michaels, before Kai Hoyt's layup made it 72-68 with 21 seconds to play. That basket was too little and too late for the Lutes, who seek to stay solidly in the hunt for a NWC postseason tournament berth when they face conference-leading Whitworth at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Cameron Reister came off the bench to shoot 7-for-9 from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, to lead the Lutes with 17 points. James Conti added 15 points, seven assists and three steals, while Schilling had 13 points and Hoyt 10. Schilling and Hoyt tied for team-high rebounding honors with eight apiece. The Lutes had a solid night from the floor, shooting exactly 50 percent overall (28-for-56) and from three-point land (10-for-20). Michaels knocked down five three-point shots and was 9-for-13 from the charity stripe on his way to 30 points for Whitman. Pavilonis scored 13 points, 12 on three-pointers, and Raher added 10 points, nine from beyond the arc. Whitman shot 20-for-53 overall, 38 percent, but was 12-for-29 from long range, 41 percent. The much-bigger Missionaries won the rebounding battle, 43-35, led by Michaels with nine. The Lutes came into the game ranked 11th in the country with only 11.1 turnovers per game, and they stayed at that number with 11 giveaways compared to 12 for Whitman.

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