THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - On the first day of the 21st Annual Thrivent Financial Tournament at the Gilbert Arena, the Cal Lutheran men's basketball team used a breakout second half to earn an 88-68 victory over Geneva (Pa.) this evening. The Kingsmen will face Tufts (Mass.) after the Jumbos topped the century mark in a 107-95 win over Whitman (Wash.) in the night cap.
After a close first half in the tournament opener, leading just 40-37 at the break, CLU pulled away in the second half. The largest gap of the game came with 9:15 remaining in regulation when the Kingsmen stretched the differential to 21 points. Geneva held its largest lead, by three points, just over five minutes into the contest.
On a career night for Jeremy Sulker-Hall, the team had a hot night overall by shooting 59.6 percent from the floor as a group. The senior forward finished 10-for-12 for 25 points to lead the Kingsmen. Kellen Birdsall also had a career showing with 15 points in 22 minutes. Adrian Francis flirted with a triple-double after chipping in with 20 points, a game-high 13 rebounds and nine assists. Additionally, Dan Wade tallied 11 points as the fourth player for CLU in double figures.
Defensively, Cal Lutheran significantly out rebounded Geneva, holding a 37-26 margin. The Kingsmen collectively forced 17 turnovers and earned 13 steals with Francis pacing the group by nabbing three. Connor McGuire had the only CLU block of the game and also came down with four boards.
Geneva (0-9) got a game-high 27 points from Ethan Adamczyk and 18 from Chaese Vaudrin in the loss. Jimmy Leichliter paced the Pennsylvania team with seven rebounds and had the only block of the game for the Tornadoes.
In the second game of the night, Tufts used a two-point, 49-47, halftime lead and near first half triple-double from Tom Palleschi (nine points, eight blocks, seven assists) to seal the win despite a late Whitman surge in an exciting contest between teams both receiving votes in the latest D3hoops.com poll.
Tufts (7-2) shot 55.7 percent tonight with six players in double figures and two over 20. Palleschi dominated the hardwood, finishing with 20 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocks, adding four assists, and reached the triple-double in only 20 minutes. After scoring 19 points in the first half, Ryan Spadford tallied two more for a game-high 21. Tarik Smith was an assist shy of a double-double with nine while scoring 17 points for TU.
Whitman (9-1) was handed its first loss of the season on a night when the group shot at a clip of 41 percent though turning the ball over just six times. Tim Howell poured in a team-leading 19 points followed by 18 from Christian McDonald who also handed out a team-best six assists. Austin Butler pulled down nine of the 42 rebounds with five offensive boards on a night when WC grabbed 19 at the offensive end of the court.
Cal Lutheran (4-2) will play in the Championship game of the 2015 event tomorrow, Dec. 30, at 8:00 p.m. against Tufts after Geneva and Whitman will meet at 6:00 p.m. in the Consolation final.
Tournament Central: 2015 Thrivent Financial Tournament
Box Score: CLU 88, GENEVA 68
Box Score: TUFTS 107, WTM 95
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