Pacific Lutheran Defeats Willamette, 62-52, in NWC Opener

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

TACOMA, WASH. -- Pacific Lutheran University outscored Willamette University 20-7 over the final 6:40, as the Lutes rallied from a three-point deficit to defeat the Bearcats, 62-52, on Friday, Jan. 2 in the Northwest Conference opener for both teams. The Lutes improved to 7-3 overall, 1-0 in the NWC. Willamette dropped to 1-6 on the season, 0-1 in the NWC.

Sara Backstrom led the Lutes with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. PLU was 10 of 21 (47.6%) on 3-point attempts during the game. Jenny Fillion (Sr., G, Silverton, OR/Silverton HS/Linn-Benton CC) topped Willamette in scoring with 13 points and also led the 'Cats with 10 rebounds and five assists.

The Bearcats led 45-42 with 8:17 to go, following a layup by Fillion. Neither team scored for about a minute and a half, until Jordan Westering hit two free throws for the Lutes. PLU tacked on three consecutive 3-pointers -- one each by Trinity Gibbons, Westering and Backstrom -- then added a layup by Tracy Goehri, as the Lutes claimed a 55-45 advantage.

Gibbons sank the first 3-pointer with 5:55 on the clock. Western nailed the next trifecta exactly one minute later and Backstrom scored from long range at the 4:15 mark. Goehri's layup completed the 13-0 run with 3:30 left.

Fillion made one of two free throws with 3:18 remaining to end PLU's run and pull WU within nine points. The 'Cats were unable to get closer the rest of the way.

Backstrom was joined in double figures by three other Lutes. Westering tallied 12 points, while Gibbons and Emily Voorhies finished with 10 points each. The Lutes shot 34.3% for the game (24 of 70), but made only 4 of 12 free throws (33.3%). PLU grabbed 18 offensive boards and achieved a 52-45 rebounding margin.

Fillion was one of two double-digit scorers for Willamette. Alex Zennan (So., PG, Sammamish, WA/Eastlake HS) also reached double figures, as she accumulated 12 points on the night. Molly Fillion (Sr., G, Silverton, OR/Silverton HS/Linn-Benton CC) and Tiana Abbley (Fr, G, Honolulu, HI/Kamehameha School) each contributed nine points for the 'Cats.

WU was 22 of 63 (34.9%) from the field and connected on 5 of 16 three-point shots (31.3%). The Bearcats converted 3 of 8 free throws.

Willamette held an early 14-5 lead and was in front 16-8 following a layup by Molly Fillion with 9:07 left in the first half. The Lutes countered with a 14-0 run to take a 20-16 advantage at the 4:57 mark. PLU owned a 25-24 edge at the intermission.

The Bearcats will return to action on Tuesday, Jan. 6 with an NWC game at Linfield College in McMinnville, Ore. Game time is scheduled for 6 p.m. (PST). Willamette will play its NWC home opener on Friday, Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. (PST) against Whitworth University.

BOX SCORE
Pacific Lutheran University 62
Willamette University 52
Jenny Fillion earned 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against PLU.

Jenny Fillion earned 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists against PLU.