Not all the loud instructions, animated cries or crackling clipboards from coach Justin Lunt could prevent an unimaginable fate for the University of Puget Sound men’s basketball team Friday night.
Here came Willamette, the program with the fewest Northwest Conference victories the past five seasons (18) — and one that has rarely given UPS a test over that span.
But the Bearcats shocked UPS, 84-77, in overtime to spoil the Loggers’ conference home opener at the Memorial Fieldhouse.
Six Willamette players, led by the 14 points apiece from Bridger Harlington and Nathan Sherfey, scored in double figures. The Bearcats made seven of their eight field goal attempts in the extra session to seize control.
UPS (6-3, 1-1 in NWC) was led by Nick Holden’s 23 points. His short baseline one-handed floater with 17.8 seconds remaining sent the game to overtime.
Twice, the Loggers led in overtime — the last time, 71-70, on James Osorio’s three-point play with 3:48 to go. But Brandon Luedtke answered on the other end for Willamette, and the Bearcats never trailed after that.
Harlington tallied seven points in overtime for Willamette (3-9, 1-2). Luedtke added six points as the Bearcats scored on their final six possessions.
“A tough game to swallow,” Lunt said.
Especially considering the rebound numbers — 44-24 in the Loggers’ favor. What this one came down to was the Bearcats’ ability to make tough shots when they needed to.
“We missed some defensive assignments down the stretch, and that really hurt us,” Osorio said.
“Conference is tough every night. … This is a good time in the season for this to happen. It is a reality check; it lets us know every game is not going to be a walkover. We’ve got to come out and battle, and be prepared for a 40-minute war.”
Bryce Miller’s layin with 16 seconds to go gave PLU (3-8, 1-1) its final lead, 72-71. He led the Lutes with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The lead changed hands five times in the final 2:59.
“It was a battle in the first half,” UPS coach Loree Payne said. “In the second half, we picked up our defensive intensity a little bit.”
A 17-3 run, capped by Alex Noren’s free throw, gave UPS a 56-36 advantage with nine minutes remaining.
George Fox (12-0, 3-0) ended up with 26 assists on 35 made field goals, compared to three Lutes’ assists. Jori Hall led PLU (3-8, 0-2) with 13 points.