Thursday, February 16, 2012

Playoffs on the line

By Sam Horn, Sports Reporter

In order for the Pacific Lutheran men’s basketball team to make the playoffs this season, three things must happen. First, the Lutes must win both of their two remaining games. Secondly, Lewis and Clark must lose one of their two remaining games. Lastly, George Fox must lose both of their last two games.

PLUvs UPS Men's Basketball (20 of 27)
In order to defeat George Fox, Pacific Lutheran University must force the Bruins to play hard in the paint. To take down the Boxers of Pacific University, the Lutes must overpower the Boxers and take advantage of their small size. Photo by Igor Strupinskiy.

This is a critical weekend for the Pacific Lutheran men’s basketball team because the post season is looming. The Lutes must win both of their games and then hope from some help in order to make it past regular season play.

The Lutes are locked in a three-way tie for the final post season berth. George Fox University must lose both of their games this weekend and Lewis and Clark must lose one of their games.

George Fox University will be the men’s first opponent, followed by Pacific University on Saturday.

The PLU men’s basketball team stayed in the middle of the pack for most of the season, sitting fifth in the overall standings for the Northwest Conference.

“[We have] a young team with only three seniors - James Conti, Zach Klein and Marcus Reaves - so the young guys have benefitted from the tough schedule and close games,” PLU men’s basketball head coach Steve Dickerson said.

George Fox University will prove to be a tough opponent, as their star player, Mike Taylor, is a transfer from a Division 1 school, Marist College.

Taylor leads the Bruins with an average 16 points and five rebounds per game.

If PLU can double-team Taylor and force him into bad shots or pass to another player, PLU stands a chance at winning this pivotal game.

George Fox is also a perimeter team, as they look to Anthony Sanchez and Taylor for beyond-the-arc shots.

In their last game, George Fox won by only one point against PLU, so PLU will be hungry for a chance at revenge.

The key to this game is simple: PLU must give Mike Taylor limited looks at the hoop, or he will punish the Lutes if left open.

If PLU can also force the Bruins out of their comfort zone by having them work in the paint, PLU has a chance of winning this game.

“We have been in every contest we have played except one, which is a testament to our teamwork and work ethic,” Dickerson said. “At this point, we still have a chance to make the conference tournament.”

The Lutes are a fairly well-rounded team, with three of five starters averaging over 10 points per game.

Pacific University has one big weakness: their size.

The men on the team average out to be about 6’2”, with forward Dustin Bowser as the tallest at 6’8”.

Bowser averages about seven boards a game and will be a force to be reckoned with in the paint, all 225 pounds of him.

PLU will have to keep an eye on Bowser. They’ll need to double-team him and force him to shoot uncomfortable shots outside of the paint. Colin Wester is also a threat, as the Pacific guard puts up nearly 16 points a game.

With four players averaging more than 10 points on PLU’s squad, the Lutes can move around the ball without worry.