Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University women's basketball team returned home after their first Northwest Conference road trip and delivered an incredible 71-47 victory over non-conference foe Warner Pacific College on Thursday inside Olson Gymnasium. The Lutes held their opponent scoreless for most of the first half and poured it on from there to get their first win of the season.
The Lutes (1-6) started slow but used their defensive dominance to take control in the first quarter. The Knights (2-6) were held scoreless for the last 7 minutes of the quarter, allowing the Lutes to take a 12-4 lead thanks to some late offense from Lauren Furu.
The Lute defense continued to constrict the Knights, whose drought continued for another seven minutes in the second quarter. However, a late 11-0 run from the Knights pulled them closer until a late jump shot from Lacey Nicholson rolled in just before the buzzer to put the Lutes up 26-15 at the break.
The Lutes regained control early in the second half thanks to a pair of three pointers from Kristin Sturdivan and Samantha Kelleigh. The Lutes steadily increased their lead throughout the quarter, and again scored just before the buzzer thanks to a jumper from Mackenzie Cooper, her first bucket of the season, to take a 49-31 advantage into the final ten minutes.
Kelleigh jumpstarted the Lute offense again with a pair of triples to push the game out of the Knights' reach early. The Lute bench, led by Julia Berenson, seized control from then on, as Danica Roady also got on the scoreboard for the first time this year. 11 different Lutes scored in a total team effort that led to the 71-47 win, the team's biggest margin of victory since a 72-40 win over Concordia University Chicago on Dec. 30, 2013.
"It felt like we came out, played good defense and increased our intensity from the start," Head Coach Jennifer Childress said. "We took advantage of our transition opportunities, and it was a fun game because of that."
Samantha Kelleigh and Anna Hurd led the Lutes in scoring with 16 and 14 points apiece. Hurd also powered the Lute offense with four assists, along with Lacey Nicholson who contributed eight rebounds on top of another four assists. While the team's offensive numbers were stellar, they brought a great deal of extra pressure on the defensive end as well, limiting the Knights to shooting just 29.5 percent (18-for-61) from the field, including a paltry 5.9 percent (one-for-17) from beyond the arc.
"We focused a lot on ourselves and our defense this week," Kaelyn Voss said. "Coach told us to control the controllable, so we focused on our hustle and effort, and we really felt like a team tonight."
The Lutes get a break to soak in their first win of the year, having eight days until their next contest.
"We're going to take it one game at a time, but it feels good to get the win." Lauren Furu said.
"A lot of our hard work is showing, and it's good to finally see it produce."
The Lutes return to the court on December 17th for the first half of the Pacific Northwest Tournament against Buena Vista University at 4 p.m. The team will then host Trinity University (Texas) the next night at the same time.