Justin Lunt knows exactly how Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll feels.
Up two points, which would Lunt rather have his University of Puget Sound men’s basketball team playing — offense or defense?
A half-decade ago, when the Loggers were still flying around outscoring opponents, Lunt would have wanted the basketball in his team’s hands.
No question, let the defense play for the win.
“And it is so weird,” Lunt said.
After Puget Sound surrounded Pacific Lutheran’s Brandon Lester in the lane, forcing him to miss a tough 8-foot shot, the Loggers escaped Olson Auditorium with a 61-57 win over the Lutes.
UPS (12-10, 8-5 Northwest Conference) sweeps the season series for the first since 2008-09 — at the end of its 13-game winning streak against the Lutes (7-15, 4-9).
Rex Nelson and A.J. Maw made five of six free throws in the final 15.2 seconds to sew up the win, one that keeps the Loggers in fourth place in the Northwest Conference, and alive for the conference tournament.
Lunt knows his program has completely changed its mindset, as it now relies on defense to get the job done.
“It has been a progression, but we’ve gotten a lot better (in
grind-it-out games),” Lunt said. “It showed tonight.”
The reason the Lutes even had a chance to tie the game was because of the contributions of seldom-used Billy Kiel, who scored all 11 of his points in the second half, including three 3-pointers.
Trailing 56-54, PLU went right to Lester, who drove down the left side, got in the lane, but had to turn back toward the basket to get off his shot. It missed.
“We wanted him to have the ball, maybe not necessarily driving,” Lutes coach Steve Dickerson said. “That is what he chose to do.”
Lester led all scorers with 16 points. Erin Barber paced the Loggers with 13 points. Nelson added 12, and Dan Cheledinas chipped in with 10.
Puget Sound 70, at Pacific Lutheran 57: Loggers coach Loree Payne’s eyes light up almost every time somebody mentions the upside of true freshman guard Alexis Noren.
“Alexis is a very, very special player,” Payne said.
And on a night when the UPS starters struggled, Noren and the bench picked up the slack Tuesday at Olson Auditorium in Parkland.
Noren, an attacking 5-foot-10 guard from Milwaukie, Ore., scored 15 points as the Loggers (14-8, 7-6 NWC) won their 11th consecutive game over the Lutes (7-15, 3-10).
Emily Sheldon added timely outside shooting in the second half, hitting four 3-pointers in leading UPS with 18 points.
The Lutes ran off eight consecutive points over the final 70 seconds of the first half, capped by Chrissy Swope’s three-point play with less than a second to go, to grab a 29-24 halftime lead.
But in the second half, Noren led the Loggers on a 24-8 scoring spurt by taking on any defender in her way for baskets off the dribble.
Noren scored nine of her 15 points in a 2 minute, 48 second span — the last shot coming when she took on the Lutes’ 6-foot Katelyn Smith and got to the bucket off the right side to give UPS a 46-37 advantage.
“She was a scorer in high school — and a very dominant scorer,” Payne said. “And at the beginning of this year (in college), she was feeling like she was being guarded a little bit closer … and it is difficult to get past them. We’ve been trying to instill in her to still attack, and still shoot.”
Sarah Barnes led the Lutes with 15 points — 11 in the second half. Samantha Potter added 14 points and 14 rebounds while Smith added 12 points.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org