McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Pacific Lutheran rode a 25-6 run that spanned both halves to pull away from Linfield and remain undefeated in Northwest Conference men’s basketball action with a 76-68 victory Saturday night at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
The Lutes (4-2, 2-0 NWC) blew open what had been a close game, which featured five ties and 12 lead changes over the first 11 minutes. With the score knotted at 27-27, Zachary Klein hit a jumper with 8:52 remaining in the opening period. His bucket sparked the decisive run, which lasted 12 ½ minutes.
Up to that point, the teams had played relatively even. Andrew Batiuk started out strong for the Wildcats (1-5, 0-2 NWC) in his first game back from injury, scoring 10 points in the opening 6:14. But he was held in check the rest of the game, scoring just two more baskets, one in each half.
He was not the only player to struggle offensively. Despite shooting relatively well for the game (47.3 percent) Linfield suffered through a key four-minute scoreless stretch about 2/3 of the way through the first half, which helped the Lutes climb to their big lead. Zach Meikle finally broke the dry spell with a 3-point basket from the top of the arc. That trimmed PLU’s lead to five points, the smallest it would be the rest of the night.
By halftime, the Lutes had widened the scoring gap to 15 points, leading 48-33.
PLU opened the second half with a 4-0 run to earn a 19-point advantage, the biggest of the game, over the Wildcats. A jumper by Zach Anderson at the 16:13 mark gave the ‘Cats their first points of the second half and sparked a 15-5 run that got the home team to within 10 points. But PLU got a basket by Arvid Isaksen and a pair of free throws to push the lead back to 14 points.
The Lutes used the clock to their advantage in the second period, grinding out the half-court offense. Linfield actually outscored Pacific Lutheran 35-28 in the final period, but the deficit was too large to overcome.
The ‘Cats did not trim the lead to single digits until a 3-pointer by Matt Kalbfleisch with 19 seconds remaining in the game.
Four of five starters scored in doubles figures for the Lutes. Andrew Earnest tied for game-high honors with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a 3-of-5 effort from beyond the arc. James Conti added 14 points and eight rebounds, Kai Hoyt contributed 12 points and Cameron Schilling had 10 points.
Anderson, the conference’s leading scorer entering tonight’s matchup at 24.4 points per game, was held to 17 on 5-of-14 shooting. Batiuk finished with 12 points and Dakotah Pine added seven for the Wildcats, who have now lost four straight contests.
AHEAD: The ‘Cats host Mulnomah Bible for a nonconference matchup Monday evening beginning at 8 p.m. Then Linfield hits the road for four consecutive home games to close out the calendar year, beginning with a trip to Eastern Washington and concluding with a contest at Northwest Christian Dec. 28.
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