TACOMA, Wash.—The Puget Sound men's basketball squad started the Northwest Conference season off on a strong note Friday night, prevailing 85-72 in a hard-fought contest at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma, Wash.
Forward Nick Holden saw his strongest game of the season, leading all players and scoring a career-high 22 points. The junior from Pasadena, Calif., also set career marks in field goals made with six and free throws made with 10. Defensively Holden was also dominant, blocking five Pioneer shots and grabbing two steals. He was only one rebound away from a double-double as well, ending the night with nine boards in the victory.
The visiting Pioneers actually took a 12-2 lead in the game's first 3:35, but the Loggers whittled their way back, pulling within three with 14:41 left in the half. Puget Sound tied the score up twice in the next 2:10 at 16-all and 18-all, but Lewis & Clark re-claimed the lead for the rest of the half. At the 6:30 mark they enjoyed an eight-point advantage and rode that to halftime where the guests headed into the locker room up 45-40.
In the second half, Puget Sound tied the match at 48-48 after back-to-back three pointers from AJ Maw and Erin Barber. The hosts took their first lead of the game at 16:20 mark in the second on a jumper by Rex Nelson. After Lewis & Clark briefly tied it at 50, Maw gave the Loggers a permanent advantage with a layup at the 15:15 mark, putting Puget Sound up for good.
With 5:18 left in the game, Nelson hit a layup to give the Loggers a 10-point advantage at 70-60. The Pioneers would crawl within six with 3:12 left in the match, but Barber netted two free throws and Holden put an exclamation on the game with a dunk at the 1:22 mark to put the Loggers up eight at 77-69. The contest ended with the home team making eight free throws in the final 49 seconds for an 85-72 victory in the first NWC game of the season for both teams.
"Our guys did an excellent job executing the game plan," said Puget Sound head coach Justin Lunt. "Any conference game will be a 40-minute battle and our guys did an excellent job staying composed and executing. I'm proud of our guys; their spirit and their will win."
Besides Holden's 22 points, three other Loggers scored in double digits: James Osorio added 14 for a season high while Nelson and Barber both netted 12 points each. This is Nelson's 10th straight game scoring at least 10 points, and he leads the team by averaging 16.7 points a contest. Holden's nine rebounds also led all players in the game, and Barber dished out four assists as well.
Bolstered by Holden's five blocks, the Loggers combined to block seven Lewis & Clark shots, their highest total since blocking seven against Linfield Feb. 9, 2013. The Loggers also made 30 of 38 free throws, making Friday their most successful night from the charity stripe in the last three years.
With the win, the Loggers advance to 5-5 in the 2013-14 season and begin the NWC slate 1-0. They look to continue their winning ways Saturday, January 4 when they host Linfield. That game will tip off at 8:00 p.m., again at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma.