Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
MCMINNVILLE, Ore. – The Pacific Lutheran University women's basketball squad returned to Northwest Conference play with a nail-biting 66-60 setback at Linfield College on Friday night. Both sides traded jabs all night in a game featuring four lead changes and four ties as the Wildcats used a late run to ultimately claim the victory.
PLU (4-8, 0-3 NWC) dominated the early going, building a 21-11 advantage after one quarter of play. The Lute lead swelled to 12-points early in the second quarter on a Kristin Sturdivan jumper but the host Wildcats bounced back as PLU's lead was trimmed to just 35-32 at the halftime break. PLU held a tenuous 47-46 edge after three quarters of action before Linfield (6-7, 2-2 NWC) took the lead for good on a jumper with 2:18 remaining. The Lutes trailed by just two points with 56 ticks left before the Wildcats salted the game away by hitting four free throws in the final 48 seconds to scratch out the win.
"That was a battle. Each team kept matching blow for blow," head coach Jennifer Childress said. "They got in the last one unfortunately, but that's also what makes the game exciting."
Kristin Sturdivan led the Lutes with 17 points, hitting seven of her 15 shots while also grabbing six rebounds and two steals. Madison Salisbury followed her up with 16 points, going six-for-10 from the field. Salisbury led the team in rebounds with nine, including five on the offensive boards. Emma Janousek added 11 points as well as three assists, as she continued to control the offensive attack.
"Our players left it all out there. A bounce here, a whistle there, and we walk out with a road win," Childress said. "I'm very proud of how we played."
PLU remained nearly even in the rebounding and turnover battles on Friday. But for a team that has a reputation as a scrappy defense, the Lutes will need to do a better job of maintaining control of the ball on the offensive end, especially as they travel to face George Fox University, a team known for their highly active press defense.
"We will continue to work on improving the controllables," Childress said. "Too many costly turnovers and forced shots in the final few minutes."
The Lutes will take on the Bruins on Saturday at 4 p.m. before returning home for another week of prep and conference contests.