By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific Lutheran University trailed Willamette University, 43-41, with 14:56 left in the game, but the Lutes answered with a 20-2 run on their way to a 77-65 victory over the Bearcats on Friday, Feb. 3 at Cone Field House. Brandon Lester of PLU, who led all players with 29 points, scored 14 points during the decisive run, including four 3-pointers.
Lester connected on 11 of 15 field goals during the game, and made 5 of 7 three-points shots. Jared Christy provided the Lutes with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Dylan Foreman contributed 10 points.
Willamette's top scorer was Trent Callan (So., G, Portland, OR/Lincoln HS) with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Callan went 2 for 2 on 3-points shots. He earned four assists and three steals.
CJ Walker (So., P, Placentia, CA/Mayfair HS) scored nine points for Willamette, while hitting 4 of 5 field goals. Jordan Jenkins (So., F, Placentia, CA/Valencia HS) tacked on eight points and led the Bearcats with seven rebounds.
The Bearcats trailed 34-27 with 52 seconds left in the first half, but cut the lead to two points at the break.
Johnny Verduin (Sr./So., F, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS) sank a jumper in the paint with 40 seconds remaining in the half. After Foreman missed a 3-point shot for PLU with six seconds to go, Hayden Russell (Sr., W, Woodland, CA/Da Vinci Charter Academy) grabbed the rebound, went down the court, and hit a 3-point shot for Willamette as time expired.
In the second half, PLU held a 41-38 lead with 15:56 on the clock after a layup by Christy. The Bearcats tied the game on a 3-pointer by Callan 26 seconds later, and moved in front 43-41 on a jumper by Walker.
The key run by the Lutes followed, starting with a 3-pointer by Lester to give Pacific Lutheran a 44-43 lead with 14:27 left. Christy increased the lead two four points with a jumper and foul shot at the 13:38 mark, before Lester connected on another 3-pointer.
Foreman added a 3-pointer for PLU with 12:31 remaining, as the margin reached 53-43. Verduin ended the Lutes' string of 12 consecutive points with a jumper, but Lester tacked on a 3-point basket with 11:44 to go.
Lester completed the 20-2 run with a 3-point basket and a layup. With 9:34 remaining, Pacific Lutheran owned a 61-45 lead. The Lutes went on to lead by as many as 24 points. Willamette closed the game with a 14-2 run.
At the start for the game, the teams were tied twice in the first three minutes, before PLU used a 12-2 run to claim a 16-6 advantage. Christy finished the run with a 3-pointer. Willamette recorded five of the next six points to cut the deficit to 17-13 following a 3-pointer by Brendon McCullough (Jr., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled).
Pacific Lutheran extended the lead to 24-15. Willamette tallied the next five points on a 3-point basket by Conin Oishi (Jr., G, Lake Forest Park, WA/Shorecrest HS) and a layup by Jenkins, as the Bearcats moved within 24-20 at the 5:49 mark.
A bit later, PLU took a 32-24 lead on a jumper by Lester with 1:48 left in the half. Willamette responded with an 8-2 run that ended with Russell's buzzer-beater.
PLU shot 48.2% for the game (27 of 56), including 53.8% (14 of 26) in the second half. The Lutes wee 9 of 19 from 3-point range, with a 6-for-9 effort from long-range over the final 20 minutes. Willamette connected on 43.1% of its field goals (25 of 58) and made 7 of 17 shots (41.2%) from behind the arc.
The Lutes achieved a slim 34-33 rebounding margin, while Willamette led 12-10 in offensive boards. WU was credited with 13 turnovers, while PLU lost the ball nine times. Each team blocked five shots.
Willamette remains at home on Saturday, Feb. 4, when the Bearcats will take on University of Puget Sound. Game time at Cone Field House is set for 6 p.m. (PST).