CLOSING OUT THE ROAD SCHEDULE: The Pacific Lutheran University men's basketball team hits the road for the final time in the 2011-12 season as the Lutes head to Portland, Ore. Saturday night to take on the Lewis & Clark College Pioneers. Pacific Lutheran comes into Saturday night's matchup with a 10-12 overall record this year and with a 7-6 mark in Northwest Conference action, the Lutes sit in fifth-place in the conference standings. Coming off a 66-52 loss Tuesday night to cross town rivals the University of Puget Sound, the Lutes will look to get back on track and finish the season on a high note as they make a push for the conference playoffs. Saturday night's game in Portland is set 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.
PLAYOFF PICTURE: Currently in fifth-place in the nine-team NWC, PLU sits one spot outside of the NWC postseason tournament picture. With three games remaining on their schedule, the Lutes are 1.5 games back of George Fox University and Whitman College, (both 8-4 in conference) who occupy the number three and number four spots in the conference standings. The UPS Loggers hold the number two spot in the conference right now with a 9-4 mark in conference play. It will be a dog fight down the stretch as these programs jockey for playoff positions and their tournament lives. At the top of the standings is Whitworth University. With an 11-1 mark in NWC action, the Pirates are on the verge of wrapping up their third straight regular season title. With four games remaining in its regular season, Whitworth can clinch the title with road victories this weekend at eighth-place Linfield College and seventh-place Pacific University.
To view the complete NWC standings, click here.
ON THE TRAIL WITH THE PIONEERS: With a 11-10 record on the season and a 6-6 mark in NWC action, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers are not mathematically eliminated from the NWC playoffs but some major pieces need to be moved for the Pio's to sneak into the postseason. Junior James Hollins leads the Pio's in both points and rebounds and is coming off a 28-point performance in the team's 80-70 victory over Linfield. Hollins ranks fourth in the NWC in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game. Head coach Dinari Foreman is at the helm for L&C in his first year in the position. In his playing days, Foreman was an NAIA All-American for Lewis & Clark and in 2005, he was inducted into the schools Sports Hall of Fame.
LAST TIME THE TWO TEAMS MET: Senior James Conti led all scorers with 20 points and the Lutes ran the Pioneers out of Olson Auditorium with a 69-54 victory. The Lutes built their first double-digit lead just 6 1/2 minutes into the game, going on top 15-4 on a Cameron Schilling jumper. After the Pioneers got to within 17-12 on a Marcus Wells three-point basket with 8:41 left in the half, the Lutes were able to again take the momentum and eventually had a 31-19 advantage on Schilling's jumper with 1:30 left in the half. Lewis & Clark got as close as five points in the first couple of minutes of the final period, making the score 33-28 on a three-ball by P.J. Taylor, but again the Lutes had an answer. They led by at least 11 points throughout the final 11 minutes of the game and had their largest lead of the game at 17 points on two occasions.PLU finished the game shooting 49 percent (29-for-53) from the field and also enjoyed a massive 41-24 advantage on the boards. After a slow start, James Hollins got it going in the second half for the visitors and led his team with 18, though he was the only L&C player in double figures. He also led his team with five rebounds. The Pioneers shot just 37 percent from the field (21-for-57) and 27 percent (7-for-26) from three-point range.
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.
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.
UPS 66, PLU 52: Pacific Lutheran saw its hopes for a Northwest Conference men's basketball postseason tournament berth take a serious hit on Tuesday night when it lost a 66-52 contest to the host Puget Sound Loggers in Memorial Fieldhouse. The Loggers improved to 17-5 overall and 9-4 in the conference, while Pacific Lutheran saw its record fall to 10-12 for the season and 7-6 in the NWC. The Lutes are now two games out of a playoff spot with three games remaining in the regular season. Pacific Lutheran took Puget Sound's big men out of the equation in an 80-62 win over the Loggers back on Jan. 10, but tonight the game belonged to 6-foot 9-inch Anthony Gittens, 6-foot 7-inch Riggs Yarbro, and 6-foot 5-inch Kaleb Shelton-Johnson, who played a big role in UPS owning a big 56-35 reboundiung edge. Gittens finished the night with 19 points and 13 rebounds, with eight of his boards coming on the offensive end. Yarbro came off the bench to lead all scorers with 20 points, and he also contributed 12 rebounds, nine of them offensive. Shelton-Johnson scored just three points but he contributed seven offensive rebounds. Depending on your view, the first half either featured tough, grinding man-to-man defense, or just bad shooting, by both teams. The Lutes were 8-for-26 from the field, 31 percent, while the Loggers were 11-for-37, 30 percent. On top of that, the Lutes turned the ball over 11 times and allowed the Loggers to crash the boards to the tune of 15 offensive rebounds. Despite all of that, the Lutes stayed within five points at the half, 25-20. Conti led the Lutes with eight points and five rebounds in ther period, but UPS shut out PLU's second-leading scorer, Cameron Schilling, who was 0-for-5 in the opening 20 minutes. Puget Sound scored the first four points of the game, but the Lutes answered with seven in a row, including a three-pointer by Cameron Reister. That was PLU's biggest lead of the half, and once Anthony Gittens hit a jumper in the lane to put UPS on top 11-9 with 12:32 on the clock, the hosts stayed on top the remainder of the half. Puget Sound reserve Riggs Yarbro, who had five offensive rebounds while shooting 3-for-11 in the first half, spurred a Puget Sound run early in the second half. He scored seven points, including running the floor to finish on a fast break to put his team on top, 42-28, with 14:23 to play. Pacific Lutheran fought its way back into the game and cut its deficit to 50-45 when Conti drew the defense and then kicked out to Schilling, who by this time was warmed up. Schilling buried a three from the top of the key with 7:00 to play. After a UPS free throw, Schilling showed his desire, getting a follow basket after a series of three straight PLU offensive boards to make it 51-47 with 6:09 remaining. The Lutes had several opportunities to cut its deficit even further but went nearly five minutes without scoring. Kai Hoyt ended the drought with 1:18 to play with a layin and free throw following a steal by Reister, but in the meantime the Loggers scored eight points to take a 12-point lead. Puget Sound iced the game at the free throw line, hitting 7-for-8 inside the final 70 seconds. Schilling ended up leading the Lutes with 15 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes, while Conti had 12 points and four assists in 38 minutes. Pacific Lutheran ended up shooting 35 percent (19-for-54) from the field and just 18 percent (2-for-11) from three-point range. Additionally, the Lutes were just 57 percent (12-for-21) at the charity stripe. The Loggers shot just 33 percent (23-for-70) from the field.