Review staff writer
While most Linfield students were enjoying Thanksgiving Break, the men’s basketball team began its season, aiming to improve on last year’s third-place conference finish.
The first two games had unexpected outcomes for the ‘Cats. A 72-70 loss to Northwest Christian University ended an 11-home-game winning streak.
Linfield led for a majority of the first half, but NCU was seldom far behind, eventually taking a 32-31 lead into halftime.
The second half was less competitive, but ended with excitement. NCU opened up a nine-point margin four minutes into the half. They went on another run, digging a 16-point hole for the ‘Cats to claw out of.
Linfield was up to the task though, hitting three three-pointers in the final minutes to tie the game at 70 with 30 seconds left. Holding out for the final shot, NCU senior forward Dylan Perry scored the game-winning layup with four seconds left.
The win gave the Beacons a record of 5-2, while Linfield started the season 0-1.
The Wildcats were led by senior forward Erik Olson, who had a game-high 22 points. Other ‘Cats in double figures were sophomore center K.C. Wiser with 13 and senior guard Jon Weber with 11 points. Olson also led Linfield with seven rebounds.
The Wildcats’ downfall, however, was the 22 turnovers that led to 19 Beacon points.
A team in NCU’s league, Concordia University of Portland was the second opponent to defeat Linfield on its home court, winning 92-82. The game was a back- and-forth contest, and the teams played to a 75-75 tie at the end of regulation.
Poor second-half shooting by Concordia helped Linfield, but the ‘Cats put themselves at a disadvantage themselves by making only 2-6 shots and 3-6 free throws in overtime. Concordia sunk 4-5 shots in the extra frame, as well as 7-8 free throws, making the difference in the final score.
Four Concordia players finished with double figures in points, while Wiser, with 31, and Weber, with 12, were the only two for the ‘Cats. Olson once again led the team with seven rebounds.
Junior guard Cody Tesoro cited cohesion as a reason for a lot of players getting playing time in these games.
Tesoro said the team needs to prepare for league games by seeing which players blend well together.
Although the preseason is generally for players to get back into action, Olson added that the team doesn’t want to lose games.
“We’re trying to win games, but the main part of the season is conference,” Olson said. “We have a really tough schedule.”
The third game of the year against Division II opponent Western Oregon University was foreseen as a tough match.
Linfield, however, led the most of the game wire-to-wire, before it pulled away to win comfortably at 89-74. Leading by only five at the half, the ‘Cats pushed the lead by as many as 20 in the second half, paced by Olson’s 29-point night.
“It just kind of happened,” Olson said. “I hit my first basket and got off to a good start.”
Linfield helped itself out by only committing nine turnovers, a vice in the first two games.
Weber and Olson are the team’s only seniors. Olson said he is not worried about lack of experience, though, because some of the juniors, including Kris Rainwaiter and Deonte Compton, are transfers who have played at other colleges.
Their fourth preseason game against Warner Pacific College proved to be another close loss for the ‘Cats, 73-71.
Though behind most of the first half, Linfield was able to take a three-point lead into halftime. The second half proved unproductive. A slew of questionable calls against Linfield and shooting only 28 percent did the ‘Cats in. They were down by as many as 10 points in the second half.
Through stingy defense, Linfield came back to tie the game with 1:30 left. They were not rewarded, though, when Tesoro was called for, what seemed to be, a phantom foul, giving the game-winning free-throws to the Knights with only 14 seconds left.
Wiser led the way with 15 points, while junior Drew Schroeder followed with 14. Tesoro, a candidate to start this year, had his best game yet, with 13 points off the bench.
Tesoro said he was haboring no hard feelings about not starting.
“I will do whatever: Whatever coach asks me to do, I will do it,” Tesoro said. “I just want to play basketball.”
The ‘Cats intend to improve on their 1-3 record tonight at home against Evergreen State College at 8 p.m. The team travels to Salem to face Corban College on