TACOMA - 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.
PLU returns to action on Saturday night when it takes on the Lewis & Clark Pioneers in Portland, Ore.
- PLU -