This is not shaping up to be the two-week Northwest Conference homestand coach Justin Lunt and the University of Puget Sound men’s basketball team had hoped for.
On back-to-back Friday nights at Memorial Fieldhouse, the Loggers were sent down — this time by Lewis & Clark, 79-69.
It was their worst home conference loss since a 78-64 defeat to Pacific Lutheran in January of 2013.
The Pioneers’ success was twofold: They dominated the paint (26 of their first 60 points came inside) and hit timely 3-pointers (six).
Lewis & Clark made 14 of its 25 field goal attempts in the first half, staking itself to a 41-31 cushion.
“I have watched all of their games, and that was probably the best half they played this year,” Lunt said. “We were in catch-up mode the whole game.
“For some reason, this gym is the gym everybody else has shot well in.”
In the second half, the Pioneers (9-6, 4-2 in NWC) turned to their chiseled 6-foot-4 junior post Carl Appleton, who just could not be handled inside.
He did not score a ton — 12 points — but he was 4-for-4 from both the field and free throw line. And when UPS tried to double-team him, he kicked it out to shooters.
Appleton’s pass to Cory Coombe for a basket gave Lewis & Clark a 60-42 lead with 9:32 to go.
Afterward, Lunt recalled his team started 2-2 in conference last season — and won eight of its final 12 games to nab the No. 3 spot to the NWC tournament.
“Last year we started out a little slow, too,” said UPS guard Erin Barber, who finished with a game-high 25 points. “We have to come together as a group. We have to continue to press. We know how good we can be.”
Dylan Foreman led PLU (4-9, 2-2) with 19 points. Bryce Miller added 11. Twelve Lutes scored.
Fortunately UPS (12-1, 3-1 in NWC) continues to shine on the defensive end. The Loggers used aggressive fullcourt trapping and effective man-to-man pressure to turn away the Pioneers (6-9, 3-3) at Memorial Fieldhouse.
“Defense is going to get it done in this conference,” Payne said.
“We are struggling a little bit from the 3-point line (4-of-21 on Friday), and we just talked in the locker room (and decided) we are not going to talk about it anymore, because that 3-point percentage keeps doing down, down, down.”
UPS jumped out to an 11-2 lead in the first four minutes, but could not break away from Lewis & Clark.
The Pioneers trimmed it to 39-35 on Cianna Ochoco’s 3-pointer with 5:55 to go.
But Amanda Forshay answered with a drive down the left side of the lane, leading to a short bank shot and a three-point play to push it back to 42-35.
Forshay’s layin at the 2:42 mark gave UPS a 46-37 lead. She finished with a game-high 15 points.
Tied at 46, Linfield went on an 8-0 run over a five-minute stretch to keep the lead for good. Megan Abdo led PLU with 11 points.