Willamette Battles Undefeated Pacific Lutheran, but Lutes Hold Off Bearcats, 90-84

TACOMA, WASH. -- Pacific Lutheran University placed five players in double figures, but had to hold off Willamette University for a 90-84 victory over the Bearcats on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Olson Auditorium. PLU led by as many as nine points twice during the second half, but Willamette rallied to take the lead the first time, then rallied to within two points the second time, at 77-75 with 2:23 remaining, forcing the Lutes to hang on for the win. Pacific Lutheran remained undefeated, improving to 4-0 overall, 2-0 in the Northwest Conference. Willamette, which has played all six of its games away from home, fell to 1-5, 0-2 in the NWC.

For the second consecutive night the Bearcats put up impressive offensive numbers before falling to a highly-regarded opponent. On Friday, Willamette shot 55.0% from the field (44 of 80), hit 70% from 3-point range (7 of 10) and sank 80.8% of its free throw attempts (42 of 52), but lost to the University of Puget Sound, ranked #22 in NCAA Division III, by a final score of 140-137 in three overtimes.

Against PLU, the Bearcats made 55.2% of their shots from the field (32 of 58), connected on 5 of 10 three-pointers (50.0%) and nailed 15 of 18 free throws (83.3%). The Lutes managed to win by committing only eight turnovers. PLU also forced 19 turnovers by WU and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds.

Willamette’s six opponents have achieved a combined record of 32-5 (.865). Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (6-0) and PLU are still undefeated, while Albertson College, Pomona-Pitzer and UPS have one loss apiece.Eastern Oregon has lost twice, falling to Willamette 84-81 on Nov. 18, and losing to Albertson, 98-80, on Dec. 1.

The Lutes were in front, 51-42, after opening the second half with a 7-2 run. Willamette quickly responded with a 12-2 run, including four points each by Michael Smith (Jr., Wing, Talent, OR/Phoenix HS) and Dan Nugent (Fr., Wing/Post, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS), as the Bearcats claimed a 54-53 lead at the 12:42 mark. A layup by Josh Vanlandingham of PLU ended the run and returned the Lutes to the lead 14 seconds later.

Willamette and PLU remained close over the next six minutes, including three ties and six more lead changes. The Lutes held a slim 67-66 advantage with 6:57 to go, but scored the next eight points for a 75-66 lead with 5:39 remaining. Six of the eight points were scored on back-to-back 3-pointers by Jared Brandeberry.

Once again, the Bearcats rallied. Willamette recorded the next four points on field goals by Nugent and junior post Ian Mansfield (Hillsboro, OR/Century HS). After Landon Heidenreich provided PLU with a basket at the 3:58 mark, the Bearcats added five points in a row, starting with a 3-point play by Nugent with 2:49 left. Kyler McClary (So., Post, Hillsboro, OR/Glencoe HS) finished the run with two free throws, as Willamette pulled within 77-75.

PLU scored eight of the next 10 points to built an 85-77 advantage with just under a minute to go. Willamette cut the lead to as few as five points at 87-82 with 24 seconds left, but couldn’t catch the Lutes.

Willamette ended the game with four players in double figures, led by Smith and Nugent, each with 19 points. Smith was 8 of 11 on field goals (1 of 2 three-pointers) and also made both of his free throw attempts. Nugent connected on 9 of 12 shots from the field and tied for the team lead with nine rebounds. Mansfield also grabbed nine rebounds to go with 12 points. Simon Currie (So., Wing/Post, Bend, OR/Mt. View HS) tallied 10 points for the Bearcats.

PLU received a game-high 25 points from Brandeberry, who sank 9 of 14 field goals, including 3 of 6 three-pointers. Brandeberry also provided five boards and three assists in 22 minutes on the court.

Heidenreich tacked on 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for the Lutes. Vanlandingham supplied 16 points and three steals, while Scott McDaniels hit the nets for 13 points, to go with seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Dressler added 10 points and three steals for PLU.

The Lutes were 31 of 70 on field goals (44.3%) and made 8 of 20 three-point shots. PLU also converted 20 of 28 free throws (71.4%) and achieved a 36-35 overall rebounding edge.

Pacific Lutheran held a 44-40 lead over the Bearcats at the break. The game was tied 35-35 with 2:13 left in the half, but Andrew Pederson sank a 3-pointer to give PLU the lead. Willamette cut the deficit to a single point, 38-37, on two free throws by McClary with 1:47 on the clock.

Josh Dressler then hit a 3-pointer for the Lutes at the 1:09 mark and Smith countered with a trifecta for WU with 0:46 left. The Lutes added another 3-pointer by Dressler with 14 seconds to go before the intermission.

Willamette returns to action on Friday, Dec. 8, with the Bearcats’ first home game of the season. WU will host Concordia University (Ore.) at Cone Field House, starting at 7:30 p.m. (PST). The Bearcats will also play at home on Saturday, Dec. 9, whey they are slated to take on Southern Oregon University at 3 p.m. (PST).