THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - Facing a win-and-get-in scenario, Cal Lutheran clinched a berth into the upcoming Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Post Season Tournament with a 68-56 victory over Whittier Wednesday night. The Kingsmen had five scorers go for double-figures while limiting the Poets to just 36.8 percent shooting from the floor. With the win, Cal Lutheran ends a three-year postseason drought, finishing in the top four of the SCIAC for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
Despite starting the game just 2-of-8 from the field and being outrebounded 26-15 in the first half, Cal Lutheran used 10-2 run midway through the opening period and took a 31-20 lead into halftime. Trailing 12-7, Dan Wade scored two of his nine-first half points when he knifed to the hoop and scooped a lay-up between two defenders to cut the lead to three. John Green then hit two free-throws to trim to Poet lead to one at 12-11. Cal Lutheran then surged ahead to take the lead after scoring on seven of its next eight possessions. After Wade hit two free-throws, Green, Collin Knudsen and Michael Palmer put in shots on consecutive trips down the floor. Wade and Arik Smith then buried back-to-back three-pointers to give CLU a 10-point cushion at 27-17 with 5:38 left in the half.
In addition to outscoring the Poets 11-0 in points off turnovers in the first half, the Kingsmen defense tightened up in the closing minutes, not allowing a Whittier basket over the final 3:28. For the half, CLU held Whittier to 8-of-31 shooting (25.8 percent) including 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.
The Kingsmen would pick up right where they left off following intermission, beginning the second half on a 17-5 run. Smith and Coltrane Powdrill each had four of Cal Lutheran's first eight points as CLU extended its lead to 16 at 40-24. A minute later Palmer came up with a steal and found Smith up the court who then emphatically slammed in a two-handed dunk that got the crowd on its feet.
Green would score on CLU's next possession, giving the Kingsmen their largest lead of the game at 50-30 with 13:00 left to play in the game.
At one-point CLU had outscored Whittier 21-2 in points off turnovers but CLU gave the ball back to the Poets eight times in the final 10 minutes, allowing its lead to slip to 12 at 54-24.
The Kingsmen would halt any final comeback by the Poets when Powdrill had a tip-in and Palmer drained a three on back-to-back possessions that put CLU back up by 17.
Smith led the Kingsmen with 19 points while Palmer was second with 16. Green and Wade combined for 21 points off the bench as both reached double-figures while Powdrill scored all five of his baskets in the second half.
Nick Demusis led Whittier with 15 points while Eric Jennings was second with 14.
With the loss, Whittier falls to 10-13 overall and 4-10 in the SCIAC.
Cal Lutheran (18-6, 9-6 SCIAC) is currently tied with Chapman in the conference standings. The Kingsmen can lock up the third seed with a win over Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in their regular season finale on Saturday, Feb. 22 and a Chapman loss to La Verne. Tip-off with the Stags inside of Gilbert Arena is set for 5:00 p.m.