LACEY – All else being equal in college basketball, bigger is better.
The Saint Martin’s Saints, taller across the front line than a Pacific Lutheran team missing its best big man, jumped out early and withstood several spirited runs by the Lutes in a 69-52 nonconference win Monday night at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin’s campus.
“PLU is a good team,” Saint Martin’s coach Keith Cooper said, “and they’re very, very well-coached.
“But our strengths are their weaknesses right now.”
With PLU’s 6-foot-8 freshman Cole Parker sidelined after back surgery, the Saints went inside early and often.
Jeremy Green, a 6-6 senior, had eight of his 16 points in a 12-0 SMU run to start the game, scoring twice on short baseline fadeaways.
PLU had few answers for Brok Pendleton, also 6-6, who had 15 rebounds to go with 10 points, and 6-5 Roger O’Neill, who led all scorers with 17 points.
“To quote a sage old coach, sometimes you just get your (butts) kicked,” PLU coach Steve Dickerson said. “That’s what happened here.”
PLU didn’t erase the scoreboard zero until the 12:35 mark of the first half, when Cameron Schilling scored on a drive. The Lutes slowly rebounded behind 5-10 senior James Conti and 6-foot junior Drew Earnest, whose 3-pointer cut PLU’s deficit to 20-17. A basket by Schilling got it to 25-21.
The Saints responded, with Pendleton and Green splitting the scoring in an 8-3 run to push the lead to 35-24 at halftime.
In the second half, the Lutes sliced the lead to nine points on a basket by Earnest off a feed by Conti, but the Saints gradually pulled away.
Floor leader Conti was the only PLU player in double figures with 13 points.
“He’s got to be the best point guard in our conference,” Dickerson said.
SMU point guard Brady Bomber played a strong floor game and had four steals to go with his six assists. Ryan Votaw chipped in nine points and Will Bond and 6-11 Matt Dodson had seven points apiece for the Saints.
Cooper said he thought his team played through fatigue, one day after returning from the Grand Canyon Holiday Classic in Phoenix.
“Our third game in four days in two states,” Cooper said. “Playing smart basketball is critical when you’re tired, and we took pretty good care of the ball.”
The Saints (6-7) return to Great Northwest Athletic Conference play Dec. 29 when they play host to Montana State-Billings.
PLU (4-6) will fly to San Antonio for the Trinity Tournament against NCAA Division III schools Wheaton College and Redlands University.
At Corban 83, The Evergreen State College 61: Mount Tahoma graduate Marice Tolliver scored a game-high 16 points for the Geoducks (0-2 Cascade Conference, 3-9 overall) in the loss to the Warriors (1-2, 9-6) in Salem, Ore.
At Corban 63, Evergreen 51: The Geoducks (0-2 CCC, 1-10) were held scoreless for the first 6:24 and couldn’t recover against the Warriors (2-1, 7-4).
Jessica Edge led the Geoducks with 16 points.
McClatchy news services contributed to this report.