On one hand, it was a night to grin widely — the 14th ranked Puget Sound Loggers completed a record-setting stretch of basketball.
With their 81-62 victory over Pacific on Friday night at Memorial Fieldhouse, the UPS women finished the first half of the Northwest Conference season undefeated. That had never been accomplished before in school history.
“Feels pretty good,” UPS senior forward Alexis Noren said.
On the other hand, if the Loggers are going to finish off a run to the conference title, they will have to do it the hard way. Six of their final eight games are on the road.
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“And the two at home are against Whitman and Whitworth,” Loggers coach Loree Payne said. “It sets up a difficult but great opportunity for us to really focus on another step in the journey.”
At this point, that journey should end sometime in March in the NCAA tournament. UPS (16-1, 8-0 in NWC) has set itself up in great position to make that field with wins over two nationally-ranked programs (George Fox, Whitman).
Now, it’s about taking a next step in development. It’s about finding a way to win amid unexpected struggles — like Friday night.
The Loggers did not need to be reminded which school was coming to town. It was the Boxers, who upset UPS last season in overtime in Tacoma.
Pacific (3-13, 1-6) came into the game on a nine-game skid. But it had the NWC’s leading scorer in Sarah Curl (20.7 ppg), who came in averaging 26.3 points over her past four games.
That defensive assignment belonged to Noren, a fellow Portland product. Curl finished with a game-high 19 points, but was limited to seven in the first half.
“We knew someone had to lock her down,” Noren said.
Yet, as badly as Curl was struggling (2-for-12 in first half), the Boxers stayed in it by making six 3-pointers.
They even took a 40-39 lead midway through the third quarter on Merrily Jones’ inside basket.
UPS finally put Pacific away with a 14-2 run starting late in the quarter.
Samone Jackson’s top-of-the-arc 3-pointer capped it, giving the Loggers a 64-49 lead with 6:42 to go.
Noren led UPS with 16 points. Elizabeth Prewitt and Jamie Lange added 13 points apiece. Claire Fitzgerald chipped in with 12.
This is the kind of effort, and result, Payne can surely point to if the Loggers incur road struggles over the next few weeks.
“We may learn a tough less in the second half of conference, I don’t know,” Payne said. “But I feel very confident in our team right now, even though we are young. They are starting to understand things, and figure out how to execute through adversity.”
Pacific 81, at UPS 78: This one hurts as the Loggers are set to be on the road for the next two weekends to begin the second half of conference play.
J.B. Ewell scored a career-high 27 points, including nine of the team’s final 12 points in the final 3:01, and the Boxers upended UPS at Memorial Fieldhouse.
After Zach Miller’s 10-footer in the lane tied it at 74-74 with 2:10 remaining, the Boxers went right to Ewell, who scored in the lane.
And with less than 20 seconds remaining, and Pacific up 78-76, Ewell got the ball on the right box and attacked Kohl Meyer. He converted a layin for what proved to be the game-winner.
Pacific made 20 of 31 field goals in the second half — a 64.5-percent clip.
Kyle King led UPS (10-7, 3-5 in NWC) with 23 points. Carlos Mancasola and Zach Miller added 15 points apiece.