Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – The Pacific Lutheran University women's basketball team returned to Northwest Conference play on Friday night inside Olson Gymnasium, keeping pace with defending league champion George Fox University through three quarters before a late run gave the 20th-ranked Bruins the 68-54 win.
The Lutes (1-11, 0-3 NWC) kept pace with the Bruins (9-2, 2-1 NWC) for much of the game, especially in the early part of each quarter. The Lutes and Bruins swapped leads six times with George Fox owning a slim 18-16 edge after 10 minutes of play and led 33-25 at the half. The Lutes managed to fight back in the second half, outscored the Bruins 17-14 in the third period and entered the final period trailing just 47-42.
However, the Bruins asserted their dominance late, using an 11-0 run to push the lead out of PLU's reach. The Lutes offense sputtered in an attempt to battle back once more, but they couldn't quite find the fire that had propelled them into contention earlier in the contest, ultimately falling 68-54.
"We came out with a lot of intensity, we weren't at all intimidated and we seized the opportunity to compete," head coach Jennifer Childress said. "We had a six minute lapse and the game was theirs, but I'm proud of how we played against a bigger and more skilled team."
The Lutes showed their improvement thus far by playing a very talented team close for 30 minutes on Friday night, but they Childress knows they have some errors that need addressing if they want to capitalize on nail-biting bouts in the future.
"We need to preserve our depth and slow the pace down," Childress said. "We got caught up in their quickness at times when we should've been treating every possession with care and using the full shot clock."
The Lutes did see Samantha Kelleigh return to form against the Bruins, scoring 17 points while shooting 5 for 11 from downtown to rebound after struggling in the D3hoops.com Classic last week. Lacey Nicholson matched Kelleigh with 17 points while also grabbing a team-best eight boards.
"Sam studied her game a lot this week, putting a lot of effort in watching a film and trying to be more than a 3 point threat," Childress said. "Her attitude was now more team oriented tonight, and she was also able to capitalize on her open shots."
The Lutes hope that Kelleigh and the rest of the team can come together for another energetic effort on Saturday night, closing the homestand against Willamette University at 4 p.m.