THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - In an all-around effort on Thursday night, the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team roared past the Bristol Bears, 89-62, in its season opener inside Gilbert Arena. The contest is considered an exhibition because Bristol is a non-countable NCAA opponent.
The Bears came out of the gates hot and took an early 19-12 lead, fueled by three straight three-pointers from Louis Lopez and strong play from point guard Tade Keshishyan. But the Kignsmen would not stay down for long and used an incredible 31-5 run to charge ahead and take a 19-point lead into the break, up 43-24.
During the run, junior transfer Adrian Francis displayed his ability to drive to the basket and score, adding 10 points during the stretch, including 14 points in the half, on 6-of-8 from the field. After taking last season off, graduate student Jeremy Sulker-Hall was a key factor as well, pitching in 11 points and pulling down five boards in the first stanza.
In the second half, CLU continued to move the ball well and find the open man while Francis and Sulker-Hall combined for 11 of the Violet and Gold's first 13 points.
Kellen Birdsall added a spark of energy of the bench and converted an and-one followed by another lay-up to give the Kingsmen a 65-36 lead.
With 6:39 remaining in the game, freshman Austin Cole buried his first career points for the Kingsmen with a smooth-looking three-point shot, and followed it up with back-to-back assists to Curtis Opsahl down low to give CLU its largest lead of the game, up 80-46, and put the game away for good.
The Kingsmen were able to get the ball inside on a routine basis and outscored the Bears 60-22 in the paint. CLU also capitalized on second-chance opportunities, outscoring Bristol 20-5 in the category, made possible by their 17 offensive rebounds.
In his CLU debut, Francis led all players in the game with 19 points, on 8-of-10 from the field, while adding four assists and a game-high three steals. Sulker-Hall finished with 17 points and six rebounds, while Connor McGuire also notched double figures with 10 points and tied Sulker-Hall with a game-high six boards.
Also making their CLU debuts were David Abbitan, Robert Ambartsumyan, Michael Orlich, Frank Calcaterra, Justin Kam and Cole.
Cal Lutheran will return to action at home on Monday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. against Cal Miramar University, another non-countable opponent.