TACOMA, Wash.—With a 59-50 victory over Linfield Saturday night at Memorial Fieldhouse, the Puget Sound men's basketball squad advanced to 2-0 in Northwest Conference action this season. The Loggers utilized a tough defense that held the Wildcats to just a 28.6 shooting percentage, the lowest allowed by the Puget Sound defense this season.
The home squad took an 8-2 lead in the first 5:23 of the game, scoring eight straight after Linfield made the game's first bucket 58 seconds in. Puget Sound then held onto the advantage for over 10 minutes until Linfield got a three-ball from Vinnie Toor with 4:47 remaining in the half to pull ahead 17-16.
The Loggers quickly tied the game at 21 thanks to a jump shot and a three-pointer from Dan Cheledinas. Linfield re-claimed the lead with 1:24 left in the period with a free throw, but AJ Maw made two free throws after being fouled by the Wildcats' Ryan Potter with 19 seconds left before half. The freebies gave the Loggers a slight 23-22 margin at the break, but one they'd never completely relinquish.
Linfield briefly tied the game at 23 with the second half's first two-point bucket, but the Loggers scored eight of the next 10 to take a 31-25 lead with 15:15 remaining. Nick Holden, the leading scorer of the game January 3 against Lewis & Clark, started the charge with three successful free throws and a layup. Cheledinas capped the mini-run with another three, his second of the night.
Three and a half minutes later, the Loggers enjoyed an 11-point advantage after Erin Barber made two field goals and Cheledinas added four more points on layups. That 11-point lead was the biggest either team enjoyed throughout the game, however, as the Wildcats trimmed the Logger advantage to four with 6:29 left to play. James Osorio and Barber scored four straight points to bring the lead back out to nine, but the visitors remained within six points until late in the contest, even pulling within three after Toor hit another three with 2:34 left to play.
Maw answered Toor's three-pointer with a three-ball of his own, and after Toor hit two free-throws, the Loggers then hit six free-throws in the final minute to cap off the game at a score of Puget Sound 59, Linfield 50.
"I thought our defense did a great job," said Justin Lunt, head coach of the Loggers. "Linfield did a good job of switching things up defensively, but on offense we weren't as assertive as we were last night. Overall our guys did a great job. It's not easy to win conference games but they stuck through it and were able to pull off the victory."
Cheledinas led all scorers with 17 points, a season-high for the winger from Seattle. Four Loggers tied for second on the team with nine points as Holden, Barber, Osorio, and Maw all scored nine in starting roles. As a team, Puget Sound out-rebounded Linfield 43-31, and Holden, Maw, and Rex Nelson led all other players with six rebounds apiece.
The difference in the game came in shooting percentages. Puget Sound hit 42.9% of its field goals and 77.8% of its free throws, going 21 of 49 from the field and 14 of 18 from the charity stripe. The Wildcats, however, shot just 28.6% from the field, hitting 16 of 56 field goal attempts, and just 17.9% from beyond the arc, making five three-balls but missing 23 three-point attempts.
The Loggers (6-5, 2-0 NWC) will next hit the road for their first away conference games of the season. The squad travels to Walla, Walla, Wash., and takes on Whitman Friday, January 10 at 8:00 p.m. They will conclude the brief road trip a day later at Whitworth in Spokane, Wash.