By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. -- Pacific Lutheran University converted 24 of 28 free throws during the game and achieved a 22-11 scoring advantage in the final 7:29, as the Lutes defeated Willamette University 77-67 in Northwest Conference men's basketball action on Saturday, Dec. 5 at Cone Field House. PLU advanced its record to 6-1, including 2-0 in the NWC. Willamette dropped to 1-6 overall, 0-2 in the NWC.
The Lutes limited the Bearcats to just 32.1% shooting (9 of 28) in the second half. PLU finished the game with a 51-34 rebounding margin.
Willamette held a 56-55 lead after Bridger Harlington (Sr., W, Lake Tapps, WA/Auburn Riverside HS) sank a pair of free throws with 8:20 remaining in the game. PLU moved in front on a layup by Bryce Miller and never trailed the rest of the night.
Even so, Willamette was within 59-58 at the 5:38 mark after a free throw by Brendon McCullough (So., G, San Antonio, TX/Home Schooled). The Bearcats trailed just 65-62 following two free throws from Brandon Luedtke (Sr., F, Meridian, ID/Mountain View HS) with 4:20 to go.
Dylan Foreman scored the next basket for PLU from 3-point range with 2:44 left, giving the Lutes a 68-62 advantage. Brandon Lester added two free throws with 1:46 on the clock.
After Alex Brown (Sr., F, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) hit a jumper for WU, the Lutes put through 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:31 to close out the win.
Lester scored a game-high 24 points for the Lutes and led all players with four 3-pointers. Foreman added 20 points and nine rebounds for PLU. Miller chipped in 15 points and nine boards, while Jared Christy hauled in a game-high 15 rebounds.
Luedtke topped Willamette with 19 points and nine rebounds. He tied for the team lead with three steals and two assists. McCullough scored 14 points and stole the ball three times. Nico Troplent (So., W, Los Angeles, CA/Cathedral HS) tallied 10 points. Brown contributed seven points and six boards.
Early in the game, Willamette used a 12-2 run to break a tie and claim a 19-9 lead. Six Bearcats scored at least one point during the run. Troplent completed the run by hitting a 3-pointer with 12:13 on the clock.
The Bearcats eventually extended the lead to 24-11, following a 3-pointer by Harlington with 10:12 left and a jumper by Luedtke at the 9:50 mark. Pacific Lutheran recorded the next seven points, ending with a 3-pointer by Lester, as the Lutes pulled within 24-18.
A bit later, WU owned a 30-22 lead when Harlington sank 1 of 2 free throws with 5:09 remaining in the half.
The Lutes closed the period with a 12-0 run for a 34-30 lead at the break. Miller tied the score at 30-30 on a pair of free throws with 3:31 to go. Lester put PLU in front with two more free throws in the final minutes. Miller tallied the last basket of the half with two seconds left.
Willamette trailed 42-33 with 17:58 left in the game, but rallied to take a 45-43 lead on a 3-pointer by Jameson Willems (Fr., F, Billings, MT/Skyview HS) at the 13:01 mark. There were three ties and four lead changes over the next five-and-a-half minutes before the Lutes moved in front for good.
PLU shot 37.1% for the game (23 of 62) and connected on 7 of 15 three-pointers (46.7%). Willamette shot 35.6% (21 of 59) from the field and made 6 of 18 three-pointers (33.3%).
After playing three games in the past four days, the Bearcats will not play again until Saturday, Dec. 19, when they host Occidental College at Cone Field House. Game time against the Tigers is set for 1 p.m. (PST).