TACOMA, Wash. – Venting a season’s worth of frustration, the Linfield Wildcats raced past the Pacific Lutheran Lutes Friday night at Olson Auditorium.
Linfield, which has experienced enough hardship this winter to last five seasons by most team’s standards, cast aside a nasty nine-game losing streak, defeating PLU 62-49 in a Northwest Conference women’s basketball game in which the visitors led from wire to wire.
The Wildcats (2-14, 1-9 NWC) also pocketed their first road victory of the season while sending the Lutes (6-13, 3-9 NWC) to their sixth consecutive defeat.
Kaely Maltman (Sr., Sandy, Ore.) delivered a double-double for Linfield with 18 points and 11 rebounds, Taylor Solomon (Jr., Kirkland, Wash.) added 14 points and six rebounds and the Wildcats shot a crisp 72 percent from the free throw line on the way to their first victory since December 8.
Sensing the opportunity to end their losing skid against a stuggling opponent, the Wildcats jumped all over the Lutes from the get go.
Linfield held PLU without a field goal for the first 9:13 on its way to a commanding 16-1 first-half lead. Katelyn Smith’s basket from close range finally broke the Lutes’ shooting slump but the game remained an uphill battle from there. PLU closed to within eight points, 23-15, on Samantha Potter’s jumper at the 5:01 mark, but the Wildcats closed the half on a 8-2 tear.
Maltman scored 10 points and snagged seven rebounds during the first 20 minutes as the ‘Cats bolted to a 33-17 lead at intermission. Tasha Rowland provided a spark off the bench, hitting 3 of 4 shots from the floor. The Lutes hit just six baskets in 26 tries in the period and were outrebounded by the more aggressive Wildcats 22-15.
PLU outscored Linfield 11-6 to start the second half, slicing the lead to nine, 39-30, with 15:01 left to play. But after Catie Mets (So., Olympia, Wash.) connected on a pair of free throws at the other end of the court, the Wildcats were back in front by 11 and never trailed by fewer than 10 the rest of the way.
Mets finished with eight points and two steals. Henson totaled just nine points but the Wildcats’ leading season scorer hit a pair of three-pointers to keep Linfield in control.
Potter finished with a game-high 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting but she was the Lutes’ only double-digit scorer. Potter also totaled a team-best nine rebounds but PLU was outworked on the backboards by a 34-28 count.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Rowland saw her first action since the season-opening game Nov. 17 at Occidental . . . the speedy freshman guard from Clackamas sat out 14 games with a nagging ankle injury but looked sharp with six points, two steals and one rebound in 19 minutes off the bench. . . Linfield’s 16-point halftime advantage was its largest lead of the season . . . the longest losing skid in Linfield women’s basketball history stands at 16 games, that record for futility coming during the 1989-90 season. . . all nine players who saw action in the game scored points, including 11 by the Linfield reserves. . . in addition to her double-double, Maltman added three assists and one steal . . . after struggling at the free throw line all season, Maltman converted 8 of 11 from the charity stripe.
AHEAD: The Wildcats return to Oregon to face defending NWC champion George Fox Saturday night inside the Wheeler Sports Center. Tipoff is set for 6 o’clock.