In everyone’s estimation, something drastic needed to be done.
So, Pacific Lutheran men’s basketball coach Steve Dickerson and his crew are finding inventive ways of throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at Northwest Conference foes starting the second half of the season.
So far, so good — the Lutes won back-to-back games for just the third time this season by holding down Pacific, 58-48, on Friday night at Olson Auditorium.
Kyle Sawtell led PLU (9-9, 4-5 NWC) with 17 points off the bench, Joshua Baird added 11 points, and Brandon Lester and Andrew Ardissone chipped in with 10 apiece. The Lutes are now 6-1 at home this season.
And the bulk of the rest of their conference games will be played in Parkland — with a new lineup and renewed optimism of getting back in the playoff hunt.
“We were just a little bit out of sync,” Lester said. “We were looking for a little bit of a change — to change up the energy. It has been working.”
After PLU was walloped by cross-town rival Puget Sound, 88-73, on Jan. 17, Dickerson unveiled a new starting lineup for the next game at Linfield.
It featured Ardissone, who does a little bit of everything in the frontcourt, and Baird, who can score from the wing.
“The good (news) is we move the ball better. The good (news) is those guys play harder,” Dickerson said. “And tonight, they were vital.”
Perhaps the biggest change has been on defense. The Lutes have gone to more zone looks, and that has seemed to spark their man-to-man defense as well.
In the four halves of basketball they have played with the new approach, the best an opponent has shot was 42.3 percent (Linfield in the second half). And the most field goals they have given up in one half is 11.
On Friday, Pacific appeared hesitant and settled for quick 3-pointers, which was the biggest reason it found itself in a 25-8 hole. The Boxers made just four of 24 field goal attempts to start the game.
It was an off game offensively for PLU’s big three scorers — Lester, Jared Christy (six points) and Dylan Foreman (two). But the Lutes survived on their change-up defenses.
“Now we never practice man to man (defense),” Dickerson said. “We just practice changing defenses. And all of a sudden, they are playing pretty good man to man (defense) now.”
Pacific (9-8, 3-6) cut it to 52-46 on Davis Holly’s 3-pointer with 2:20 remaining. But the Lutes scored on their next three trips to put the game away.
At George Fox 78, UPS 77: Auburn product J.J. Lacey poured in a game-high 24 points, and the Boxers (7-11, 5-4) held off the Loggers in Newberg, Oregon.
Trailing 76-74, UPS had a chance to take the lead late. But Kohl Meyer missed a 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go.
Dylan Hamlett made a pair of free throws for the Bruins five seconds later to put it out of reach.
The Loggers (10-8, 3-6) were led by Carlos Mancasola’s 20 points. Meyer added 14 points and 13 rebounds.
No. 12 UPS 83, at No. 24 George Fox 76: This was a biggie for the Loggers, who kept firm grasp on the conference lead by earning a season sweep of the Bruins at the Wheeler Sports Center.
Elizabeth Prewitt scored a game-high 20 points, with seven coming in the fourth quarter. Jamie Lange added 17 points, and Samone Jackson chipped in with 16 in the victory.
GFU (14-4, 6-3 NWC) grabbed a 66-59 lead on Kylin Coleman’s free throw with 7:24 to go. But the Loggers got back-to-back 3-pointers from Prewitt and Caitlin Malvar to close the gap.
Another 6-0 UPS run gave the Loggers a 71-70 lead with 3:03 remaining.
The big play came with UPS holding onto a 77-75 lead with 39 seconds to go. Alexis Noren got loose in the lane and converted a layup for the Loggers (17-1, 9-0).
UPS, which has now won 10 games in a row, went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final 2:30, while GFU was 2-for-4.
Pacific 58, at PLU 54: Sarah Curl scored 24 points, and Nikki Gilbert made one of two free throws with 14 seconds to go for the Boxers (5-13, 3-6), who secured a victory in Parkland
Trailing 57-54, the Lutes got the ball back off a turnover, and had a chance to tie the game late.
They tried going inside to Lacey Nicholson, who was terrific with a team-high 19 points. But Kristin Sturdivan’s pass from the key went too long and out of bounds with 18 seconds remaining.
Sturdivan added 12 points, all on 3-pointers, for PLU (1-17, 0-9).