Neither the Puget Sound nor Pacific Lutheran men had spent the non-conference basketball season lighting the world on fire with their play – or their victories.
But one of the local teams would be in line for a victory when the two Northwest Conference rivals faced off Wednesday night in Tacoma.
Typical of a Steve Dickerson-coached team, the Lutes never showed their best form before New Year’s Day – then showed signs of coming out of their slumbering state by rocking the Loggers, 78-64, at UPS Memorial Fieldhouse.
Andrew Earnest led four PLU scorers in double figures with 18 points. Daniel Landram added 16, and freshman center Bryce Miller was crucial in shutting the door in the final five minutes with 13.
Derek Jobe tallied 18 points for the Loggers, all coming in the first half. UPS (5-7 overall, 0-3 NWC) starts the conference season with three consecutive defeats for the first time since 1999-2000.
Both schools faced the reality of starting 0-3 in league. But after taking the lead late in the first half, only to see UPS cut it to 42-38 on Kohl Meyer’s 3-pointer with 15:17 to go, the Lutes (3-9, 1-2) responded by going on an 8-0 run over the next 21/2 minutes.
The spurt was capped by Arvid Isakson’s basket as PLU broke the Loggers’ full-court pressure.
“We’ve struggled, there is no question about it,” Dickerson said. “One of the keys is we have not had Arvid all year. Arvid brings a huge, huge sense of energy and urgency to everything he does.”
After that, PLU did what it always does – grind out possessions. The Lutes scored on six consecutive trips midway through the second half, and their patience was key in keeping a big lead.
“We’ve had a lead in a lot of games this year, and kind of choked it away,” Lutes forward Cameron Schilling said. “We needed that one game where we closed it out, got a win, and for some of the younger guys to feel what it is like to win a big game.”
PLU has won four of its past five games against the Loggers – after losing 13 in a row at one stretch in the series.
“We break our whole season into three seasons and this is the first real game of our third season,” Schilling said. “Conference is what gets you in the conference tournament, and hopefully then the NCAA tournament.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442