THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - The Cal Lutheran men's basketball team opened up the 22nd Annual Thrivent Final Tournament with an 87-65 rout over Alfred (N.Y.) inside Gilbert Arena on Thursday night to advance to the championship tomorrow against Lake Forest (Ill.)
The Saxons jumped out to an early lead after three quick layups, before Adrian Francis put the Kingsmen on the board with a crafty layup in the paint. CLU continued to close the gap and took its first lead of the game, 14-13, with 12:29 remaining after Blake Miles found Kenneth Moffett open underneath for a close-range basket.
After an Austin Cole jumper on the next possession, CLU went on a 21-10 run to put the Saxons in the rearview mirror for the rest of the game. During the run, the Kingsmen got hot from the beyond the arc with two three-pointers from Cole along with one apiece from Francis and Sam Cirillo.
Cirillo added another basket to close out the half and give CLU a 49-31 lead. Alfred battled in the second half, but the Kingsmen held off any runs and outscored the Saxons 38-34 in the period. CLU shot 34.6 percent from downtown (9-for-26) while shooting 47.1 percent (33-for-70) from the field and held Alfred to just 18.2 percent (4-for-22) from three-point land and 37.3 percent from the field overall (25-for-67).
Francis led all players with a game-high 22 points while dishing out seven assists and grabbing four rebounds. Wolfgang Wood made his return to action with a 21-point performance and Cole finished with 16 on 4-for-9 from three-point territory. Miles reached double digits with 10 rebounds and Caleb Richey had a game-high four steals to go along with six assists. All 14 Kingsmen suited up in a game that saw Lukas Swidler make his CLU debut and Palmer Chaplin score his first collegiate basket.
Tyler Seelman was the only player in double-figures for the Saxons with 10.
In the second game of the evening, Lake Forest defeated Luther (Iowa) 66-51 after essentially leading wire-to-wire. The Foresters took a 13-12 lead with 12:23 on the clock in the first and never looked back, extending their lead to 28-20 at the half while outscoring the Norse 38-31 in the second half.
The Foresters made 10 three-pointers in the game, with six of them coming from leading scorer Mike Rueffer, who finished with 18 points to go along with seven assists and seven rebound. Jim Schick had a strong day in the post for the Foresters with 14 points and nine rebounds and Eric Porter added nine points.
For the Norse, Christian Wright and Luke Palmer led the way with 11 points apiece.
Cal Lutheran (8-1) will take on Lake Forest in the Thrivent Financial Tournament Championship tomorrow, Dec. 30 at 7:00 p.m. The consolation final will take place at 5:00 p.m. between Luther and Alfred.