THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - On the first official day of winter break the Cal Lutheran basketball team was doing the opposite of resting after a long semester of academics and athletics as the Kingsmen hosted the Willamette Bearcats in non-conference action. The home team returned to their dorms with a 64-59 victory inside the Gilbert Arena this afternoon.
A tight start took a swing in favor of the home squad mid-way through the first half as the Kingsmen used an 11-3 run to open a 26-15 advantage and held a 35-23 lead at the half. CLU would open the largest gap of the game, 17 points, at the 13:37 mark of the second half with a fast break dunk from Coltrane Powdrill off a steal, but the Bearcats did not go easily. A three-pointer from Alex Hansen with 1:35 remaining in regulation made it a one-point game.
CLU was forced to grind it out and they did just that. A rebound off a missed shot from CLU with just over a minute to play was nabbed by Arik Smith, allowing head coach Rich Rider to burn a timeout and get the guard out of trouble as he was quickly surrounded by Bearcats at the baseline.
Another timely offensive rebound by Smith turned into a layup and an and-one on a foul in the paint to give CLU a 61-57 advantage. He was again fouled seconds later and put in both for a six-point lead. Willamette would add two more free-throws and Michael Palmer closed out the scoring for CLU by splitting his attempts at the line with 27 seconds to go. A series of missed opportunities by WU in the final 20 seconds allowed CLU to secure the victory.
Leading the way with his first double-double of the season was Corey Quintana. The sophomore led all players with 11 rebounds, including four on the offensive end of the court, while pouring in 15 points, second to only teammate Smith who finished with 17. Quintana also had two of the five CLU blocks in the game and Smith led all players with a game-high three assists and five steals as well.
The bench produced 20 points today. Steven Davis was one of the many players to add depth and contribute for CLU, going 2-for-2 from the field with a three-pointer in his only opportunity, adding a rebound, an assist and a steal in just 13 minutes. Collin Knudsen also played an instrumental role today, tallying nine points with four rebounds, a pair of assists and two steals. Jeremy Sulker-Hall, though in foul trouble, chipped in four points and four rebounds. Knudsen and Sulker-Hall each grabbed three offensive boards for the Kingsmen.
Willamette (1-6) was paced by Hansen and Avery Manu with 13 and 10 points, respectively. Kyle McNally grabbed 10 rebounds for WU and had a block and a steal. CLU held the leading Bearcats' scorer, Brandon Luedtke, to just eight points though he was able to grab eight boards and three steals while handing out two assists to lead his team.
Cal Lutheran (8-1) will have a week off before hosting the 21st Annual Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Tournament on Dec. 29-30 at the Gilbert Arena. The 2013 edition will feature Hamline (Minn.), Otterbein (Ohio) and Ripon (Wis.). CLU will face Ripon on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 6:00 p.m.