By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
PARKLAND, Wash. -- Pacific Lutheran University shot 56.3% in the second half to extend a nine-point halftime lead and pull away from the Willamette University Bearcats for an 87-58 win on Friday, Jan. 29. The Northwest Conference men's basketball victory improved the Lutes to 12-7 overall, 5-5 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette dropped to 6-12 on the season, 3-6 in the NWC.
The Lutes sank 12 of 22 three-point attempts (54.5%) during the game, including 7 for 10 in the second half. PLU shot 49.2% overall (31 of 63), including 18 of 32 shots in the final 20 minutes.
For Willamette, Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) and Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) scored 14 points apiece. Harlington led the Bearcats with three 3-point baskets.
Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled) chipped in 13 points. Matt Billingsley-Peeler (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) scored eight points and was 3 for 3 from the field with a pair of 3-point tallies.
Willamette's leading scorer, Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS), was held to just two points, but grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and earned four assists. Brown registered seven rebounds, while Harlington gathered in six and McCullough was credited with five.
The Bearcats shot just 30.4% (21 of 69) as a team, including 6 of 22 on three-pointers (27.3%).
Dylan Foreman and Jared Christy led Pacific Lutheran with 17 points each. Christy was 7 for 7 from the field, including 3 for 3 on three-point shots. Kyle Sawtell topped all players with four 3-pointers on his way to scoring 15 points.
Brandon Lester added 13 points and hit a trio of 3-point baskets for PLU. Bryce Miller also scored 13 points and led all players with 13 rebounds and five blocked shots.
The Lutes claimed a 7-1 scoring advantage in the first three minutes. Willamette countered with an 8-0 run to take an 8-7 lead on a layup by Brown with 15:36 left in the half.
A bit later, WU tied the game at 11-11 on a 3-pointer by Billingsley-Peeler at the 13:16 mark. PLU went on an 8-4 run that gave the Lutes a 17-13 lead when Lester hit a 3-pointer with 11:00 on the clock. Willamette tied the game on a jumper by Harlington and a layup by McCullough.
The teams were tied for the third time at 20-20, before Willamette took a three-point lead on a free throw by McCullough, plus a jumper by Brown with 7:17 remaining.
Pacific Lutheran recorded a 14-2 offensive surge to end the half with a 34-25 lead. The run included three 3-point baskets -- one each by Sawtell, Christy and Lester.
Willamette cut the lead to a single point at 48-47 on Billlingsley-Peeler's 3-pointer with 12:19 remaining in the game. PLU scored 12 unanswered points to expand its lead to 60-47 with 8:19 left. The Bearcats scored on a layup by Brown during their next possession, but PLU followed up with a 15-2 run to take control.
Both teams grabbed 44 rebounds on the night. Miller's five blocks helped Pacific Lutheran earn an 8-3 edge in blocked shots. Casey Thornton (So., F, Santa Rosa, CA/Maria Carrillo HS) led Willamette with two blocks.
The Lutes forced Willamette into 20 turnovers and converted the turnovers into 33 points. PLU lost the ball 13 times, resulting in six points for the Bearcats.
Willamette will take on NWC rival Pacific University on Saturday, Jan. 30 at Cone Field House. Game time on Gordie James Court is set for 6 p.m. (PST).
It will be Feed the Dream night as part of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Celebration. Each fan who brings at least two canned food items to the game will be admitted for free. Donated food items will be presented to the Marion/Polk County Food Share.