Pressed to make a vote, University of Puget Sound men’s basketball coach Justin Lunt called it a one-half performance in his all-time top five.
His players would unanimously vote it No. 1.
Nick Holden was a man possessed Friday, on a night when the Loggers desperately wanted to kick off Northwest Conference play in winning fashion.
Led by the 6-foot-7 junior from Pasadena, Calif., UPS dominated the second half en route to an 85-72 victory over Lewis & Clark at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma.
Holden finished with a game-high 22 points, nine rebounds (and many more tipped basketballs to keep possessions alive), five blocked shots and two steals to fuel the rally.
In the second half, the Loggers (5-5 overall, 1-0 NWC) — who trailed 45-40 at the break — limited the Pioneers (7-3, 0-1) to 26.9 percent shooting while forcing 12 turnovers.
“We played at the Logger level of toughness,” Lunt said.
Up and away Holden flew, who was an unsettling presence in the key on defense, changing shots all around the basket.
“Coach has given me the green light to go block shots,” Holden said.
UPS held the Pioneers without a field goal for 51/2 minutes, going on an 8-1 run to take the lead for good.
Then came the hold-your-breath moment, one that involved Holden.
Going up for an alley-oop during a fast break, he got undercut by Lewis & Clark’s Justin Leathers at the high point of his ascent and crumpled to the hardwood.
He got up grimacing, holding his back. But he stayed in and sank two free throws to give the Loggers a 62-55 lead with 8:33 to go.
“My body is pretty banged up from that,” Holden said.
When the Pioneers threatened late, Holden’s dunk off an AJ Maw feed finished them off, 77-69, with 1:25 remaining.
“With Nick ... he’s the most improved player I’ve ever coached,” Lunt said. “He won 50-50 balls, tips, offensive boards and was finishing. Nick did just an amazing job,”
At Pacific Lutheran 72, George Fox 64: Arvid Isaksen scored a career-high 28 points — 16 coming in the decisive second half, and the Lutes (4-6, 1-0) opened NWC play with a win.
The Bruins’ last lead (58-56) came with 5:09 to go. Isaksen then scored six points during an 8-0 PLU run, ending with two free throws, to give the Lutes a 64-58 lead at the 2:44 mark.
Lewis & Clark 82, at UPS 70: It seemingly didn’t matter if the Loggers played a zone defense or got up the faces of the Pioneers’ long-range shooters. The visitors kept making big shots.
Riding 14 3-pointers, Lewis & Clark (6-4, 1-0 NWC) ruined UPS’s home conference opener by storming out of Memorial Fieldhouse with a victory.
Katie Anderson led the Pioneers with 31 points. She made six of the team’s 3-pointers. Amanda Forshay poured in a career-high 27 points for UPS (7-3, 0-1) — 20 coming in the first half.
“Anytime a team makes 14 (3-pointers), they are going to be tough to beat,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “They were on fire. Our adjustments were we tried to get out, and they were still making 3s with hands in their faces.”
George Fox 70, at PLU 43: Jami Roos scored 15 points, and the 10th-ranked Bruins (11-0, 2-0 NWC) shot 51 percent from the floor in defeating the Lutes (4-6, 0-1) at Olson Auditorium.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com @ManyHatsMilles