FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Start with 56 percent shooting, add a 34-19 rebounding advantage along with solid defense, and throw in a 15-0 run in the middle of the first half and you have the recipe for another Pacific Lutheran men's basketball victory.
The Lutes routed their third consecutive Northwest Conference basketball opponent on Saturday night, rolling past the host Pacific Boxers by a 77-56 score at Stoller Center.
With the win, the Lutes even their overall record to 8-8 while improving to 5-2 in the conference. After a hot start this season, Pacific has cooled down during the first half of the conference season and is now 8-9 overall and 2-6 in the NWC.
Pacific Lutheran came into tonight's contest on the wings of 18- and 15-point wins over Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark, respectively, but those wins were on the friendly confines of Olson Auditorium's The Names Family Court.
The question was, could the Lutes continue to play that well on the road against a conference foe. The answer on this night was a resounding yes.
PLU scored the initial basket and trailed only once in the game, that coming about halfway through the opening half when Robby Babek hit a jumper to give Pacific an 18-17 lead.
The Lutes responded with the aforementioned 15-0 run, changing the game and building a lead that the Boxers would not overcome. Austen Wilson hit a jumper to start the run and Cameron Schilling drilled another jumper to finish it. In between, it was the Drew Earnest show. The junior guard from Clackamas, Ore., scored 11 consecutive points on a layup, a three-point basket and three jumpers.
By the time the run was over, the Lutes had a 32-18 advantage with about four minutes left in the opening half, and they eventually took a 42-26 lead into the halftime break.
PLU never led by less than 16 points the entire second period and took its largest lead at 24 points, 62-38, on a jumper by none other than Earnest with 9:27 remaining in the contest. Earnest finished the game with 17 points.
The Lutes were on fire from the floor, shooting 56 percent on 35-for-63 accuracy. Normally a good three-point shooting team, they were just 2-for-18 from beyond the arc, but those threes weren't needed in this contest.
Schilling notched a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, eight of the latter coming in the second half. James Conti had his usual solid floor game with 12 points, four assists and three steals, while Kai Hoyt chipped in with 10 points.
Marc Eppinger scored 18 points and Charles Mosley had 10 points and eight boards for the Boxers, who shot a very respectable 48 percent. Pacific's problem was that it got up only 42 total shots and turned the ball over 13 times leading to 22 PLU points. On the other hand, the Boxers managed just six points off of nine Lutes turnovers.
PLU is back in action at 8 p.m. tomorrow when it faces the George Fox Bruins in Newberg, Ore., in a battle of teams currently tied for third in the conference standings.
- PLU -