Defense stifling as Puget Sound shuts down Willamette

Defense stifling as Puget Sound shuts down Willamette

TACOMA, Wash.—The Logger defense has been superb all season, but it was at its best Friday night against Willamette, holding the Bearcats to just 45 points in a 64-45 win at Memorial Fieldhouse.

By allowing just 45 points, the Puget Sound defense held an opponent under 50 points for the first time since Jan. 3, 2008, when it limited Linfield to 48 in a 70-48 victory. The Loggers also held Willamette to a 35.4% shooting percentage, marking the 11th time and sixth consecutive game they've held an opponent to 40.0% or less from the floor. Entering the contest, the Loggers ranked 25th in all of Division III by holding opponents to just a 39.2% field goal percentage. The Logger defense also set a season high with 11 steals against the Bearcats.

That stingy Logger defense allowed the offense to take over early in the game. After allowing Willamette just one field goal from the 16:49 to 11:06 marks of the first half, the Loggers were able to pull ahead 18-11 on the strength of a couple three pointers from Dan Cheledinas.

Two minutes later, they kicked off a 9-2 run to take a 29-17 lead with 4:35 remaining in the half. Erin Barber scored five of those points for the Loggers, nailing a three-ball and then hitting a pair of free throws to finish off the stretch. He then hit two consecutive three pointers to give the Loggers a 15-point lead with less than two and a half minutes remaining. Nick Holden added a layup with six seconds remaining in the half to give the Loggers a 15-point advantage at the break at 38-23.

The Logger lead stayed around 15 until the 13:57 mark when Holden scored four straight and Rex Nelson added a layup to push the advantage to 48-29. With 6:06 remaining in the second half, Puget Sound embarked another big run, scoring 11 of the next 12 points to take a 63-39 lead. Nelson scored six of the home team's 11 points during that stretch.

Willamette added six points in the final 2:15 to pull to 45, but it made no difference as the Loggers prevailed 64-45 for Puget Sound's fourth consecutive home victory.

"Defense is what triggered the win," said head coach Justin Lunt. "We got hot from the three and Barber did a nice job and made some shots early. I thought the first half in particular was one of the best halves we've played all year. We moved the ball tremendously, they were unselfish, and they did a great job sharing the ball."

Nelson paced the Loggers with 17 points while Barber was right behind him with 14, all in the first half. Both Nelson and Holden grabbed six rebounds apiece for Puget Sound, and JJ Pavia was up with both of them at five boards on the game. AJ Maw saw a good night passing the ball as well, providing four assists while giving up only one turnover. For the Bearcats, Brandon Luedtke scored 15 points and Kyle McNally grabbed six rebounds in the loss.

The Loggers (8-7, 4-2 NWC) will look to continue their defensive pressure on the road as they now embark on a four-game road trip. They kick off the road trip Friday, Jan. 24 at Pacific and play at George Fox on Saturday, Jan. 25 to close out the weekend.