Television and radio announcers often say that you can throw out the records when it comes to a rivalry game. When dealing with any sort of crosstown or league rivalry, it’s usually a safe bet that the action is going to be tight, and outcome never certain for the favorites. When the University of Puget Sound Loggers paid a visit to Pacific Lutheran University’s Olson Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 14, the teams’ numbers were an odd reflection of each other, and it didn’t bode well for the host Lutes.
The sixth-ranked Logger women entered the contest against their historic rivals with an eye-popping 22-1 record. Meanwhile, the host Lutes, wrapping up what was rebuilding year Parkland, came into the game with a 1-22 mark.
With legendary broadcaster Bob Robertson doing the radio play-by-play at the scorer’s table, there’s a good chance that he began the night’s transmission by saying you can throw out the records in this game, but he probably wasn’t feeling it in his bones. A 21-game win difference is about as big as any basketball fan is bound to see, and frankly, the UPS Loggers are worthy of their lofty national ranking and the hype.
Despite hanging in there for the first quarter, the Lady Lutes just couldn’t match the Loggers bucket for bucket for very long, and make no mistake; the Lutes have some very talented players. The main problem going for the hosts was just how similar this Logger team is to the incredible squad assembled just a short drive up I-5 at the University of Washington.
While most of the college basketball attention in the state has been focused upon the top-ranked and undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs men’s team, as well as the Washington Huskies women’s team, not as many eyes have been following what the Loggers have accomplished so far this season. As a matter of fact, the nightmarish, season performance of the Washington Huskies men has garnered more attention.
That’s just how it rolls for Tacoma sometimes. That’s also why so many of our teams play with a chip on their shoulder.
Last weekend, the Loggers hit the road to face 17th-ranked Whitman and for the second time this season finished their opponent with an overtime victory. The most-recent victory sealed a Northwest Conference championship for the Loggers, who could finish a perfect 16-0 in conference play with a victory at Pacific (7-16) on Saturday, Feb. 18. The only blemish on the Loggers’ record this season was a slim 68-65 loss to ninth-ranked Trinity at the PLU Holiday Classic in December.
Puget Sound will host Lewis & Clark (15-8) in the semifinals of the NWC Tournament on Thursday, Feb. 23. Should the Loggers win, they will host the NWC title game on Saturday, Feb. 25 against either Whitman (20-3) or George Fox (19-4).
Inside an unusually warm, if not sweltering Olson Auditorium, the Loggers took a 26-19 lead over the Lutes into the second quarter. It was as close as PLU would get for the remainder of the contest as UPS turned the heat up on both ends of the court. The Loggers were forcing turnovers, owning most of the rebounds and if they were within spitting distance of the three-point line, the shots were soaring and finding pay dirt. By the end of the first half, the Loggers had built a 51-32 advantage that already looked insurmountable for the Lutes, with 20 minutes of action still in the offing.
The Loggers extended their lead in the third quarter, outscoring PLU 24-17 in the stanza and took a commanding 75-49 lead into the fourth quarter. The only question remaining was whether the Loggers were going to possibly hit the century mark on the scoreboard.
While the heaters continued to blast away inside Olson Auditorium, the action on court cooled a little in the fourth quarter. With several reserves taking over to close out the game, the Loggers were still able to extend their lead even further to end the game at 91-60 to improve their record to 23-1, and dropping the Lutes to 1-23. The records truly meant something coming into this one.
In the second half of the rivalry doubleheader, the Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran men squared off in another mirror-like matchup. The Loggers entered the game at 12-11, with the Lutes coming in at 11-12. It looked like an even matchup on paper, even though the Loggers owned an 88-73 victory over the Lutes back on Jan. 17.
With the Lutes still in the hunt for a fourth and final NWC playoff spot, the pressure was on PLU to bounce back from their prior meeting. For the first 30 minutes of the basketball game, it truly was anybody’s contest. UPS looked like they might make a run at the end of the first half, but it was stalled and countered by the Lutes and the Loggers had to settle for a 39-38 lead going into the locker rooms.
Early in the second half, it looked like UPS may try to take over the game, but their momentum wore out at 46-39 and the Lutes began to reel them in. At the 12-minute mark, PLU took a 49-46 lead on a three-point bucket by senior Brandon Lester and never let go of the reins. Meanwhile, the Logger shots were not falling. Whether it was from the outside, or a few feet from the basket, the UPS shooting ran cold and PLU capitalized on it on their way to a commanding 71-54 victory.
The Pacific Lutheran men host Linfield on Friday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. A win by the Lutes would pull the two teams into a tie for fourth in the NWC, with PLU owning the tie-breaker due to beating Linfield both times this season.