TACOMA, Wash. – Playing their final games in a Linfield uniform, K.C. Wiser pumped in 15 of his game-high 23 points in the final 10 minutes and Sergio Rosario came off the bench to score 21, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the playoff bound Pacific Lutheran Lutes Saturday night at Olson Auditorium.
PLU senior Kyle MacTaggart went for 21 points and the Lutes forced 16 turnovers to slip past Linfield 71-68 in the Northwest Conference regular-season finale for both teams.
Rosario added five rebounds and two assists for the Wildcats, who slumped 9-16 overall and 5-11 in conference play. Zach Anderson added 16 points, four rebounds and four assists.
In a number of ways, Linfield’s narrow loss summed up its 2010-11 season: Too many turnovers, not enough outside shooting and questionable decision making.
Wiser missed his first three shots and at one point was a less-than-Wiser-like 2-for-11 from the field. With the game nip and tuck and neither team taking full command in the second half, Wiser closed out the game by hitting six of his final eight shots, including a trifecta of 3-pointers that kept the Wildcats in contention until the final minute.
Both teams were less-than-stellar from the field in the first half, excepting the efforts of Anderson and Rosario. Anderson scored 13 points in the opening half, while Rosario netted nine.
Linfield nursed a 28-23 halftime advantage before teams heated up in the second half Linfield shot 54 percent and PLU 59 percent, making for high drama in the final 20 minutes.
The 'Cats opened up their biggest lead of the game at eight points, 31-23, on a free throw by Ryan Lobdell just 38 seconds into the second half. PLU eventually took a 43-41 lead on Kyle MacTaggart's layup with 13:38 left.
Linfield led only one more time after that, going up 45-43 on Rosario's jumper one minute later. PLU regained the lead, though Linfield kept its deficit within reach. When Rosario hit a long three with three seconds left the 'Cats were within two at 70-68.
PLU’s James Conti hit the second of two free throws with 1.1 seconds left to put the Lutes on top by three. MacTaggart made sure that the visitors didn't get another chance when he blocked a Hail Mary inbounds toss by David Lee, preventing Linfield from a chance at a game-tying shot.
The host Lutes wrapped up their 15th win of the regular season, the most by a PLU men's basketball team since the 1996-97 squad finished 15-10 overall.
For the game, the 'Cats shot 44 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Lutes, 37-32. Wiser grabbed 12 boards to lead both teams.
MacTaggart, one of four PLU seniors honored prior to the game, led his team with 21 points, while Conti finished with 15. Bull and Curtis Trondsen, also seniors, had eight points, while the fourth senior, Tony Polis, had two points, two assists and two steals.
The Lutes earned the No. 4 spot in the upcoming NWC playoffs and must travel to Spokane, Wash., to play top-seeded Whitworth Thursday night.
21 points off the bench
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