Steve Dickerson sees the signs.
His Pacific Lutheran University men’s basketball team is weary and running on fumes down the stretch of the Northwest Conference season.
For the third consecutive game, the Lutes hit the wall offensively in the second half – this time against second-ranked and undefeated Whitman.
Fueled by 13 unanswered points, the Blues pulled away for an 87-58 victory at Olson Auditorium in Parkland.
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And when Whitman continued to score, the Lutes sputtered, going scoreless for nearly a seven-minute span. They shot 22 percent from the floor in the second half.
“We came out and played really well for the first few minutes of the second half. Then we quit doing what we do,” Dickerson said. “These are good kids, but I think we’re tired. And (Brandon) Lester must be exhausted playing every minute.”
JoJo Wiggins’ jumper gave Whitman (23-0 14-0 in NWC) a 63-49 lead to cap the 13-0 run.
“This is the best team (Whitman coach Eric Bridgeland) has had since I’ve been here,” Dickerson said. “They play better together. They act like they like each other. And they are athletes.”
It has come to this for the Lutes (11-12, 6-8) if they want to grab the final berth to the NWC tournament:
First, they must defeat Puget Sound on Tuesday in Parkland in what is assuredly an elimination game.
Then, they must complete a season sweep of Linfield on Friday night in Dickerson’s final regular-season game as PLU’s coach.
“We want to go 8-8 in the league,” Dickerson said. “If something happens, it happens.”
The players are fully aware they cannot drop another game the rest of the way.
“Everybody knows we have to do everything it takes to get the next two games,” PLU forward Jared Christy said. “We have to make it happen.”
No. 6 Whitworth 69, at Puget Sound 62: Christian Jurlina scored 19 points, and the Pirates built as large as a 15-point lead in beating the Loggers at Memorial Fieldhouse.
Easton Dressen led all scorers with 20 points off the bench for UPS (12-11, 5-9), which must sweep its final two games, and hope that Linfield gets swept and Lewis & Clark loses one of its final two games to grab the final playoff spot to the conference tournament.
At No. 6 UPS 78, Whitworth 58: Sumner product Jamie Lange had 21 points and 16 points off the bench, and the Loggers clinched the NWC title outright with a convincing victory in Tacoma.
The lead changed hands 11 times in the first half. UPS (22-1, 14-0) took the lead for good, 30-29, on Lange’s layup with 2:19 to go in the second quarter to trigger an 11-0 run.
No. 15 Whitman 73, PLU 43: The Blues held the Lutes scoreless for 5½ minutes in the first quarter to build a double-digit cushion, and Whitman won in Parkland.
Chelsi Brewer paced the Blues with 15 points. Lacey Nicholson had 11 points for PLU (1-22, 0-14), which hosts UPS on Tuesday night.