TACOMA, Wash. – The University of Puget Sound men's basketball team thwarted a furious comeback attempt from UC Santa Cruz to capture its home-opener 74-71. Kaleb Shelton put up 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to fuel the Logger victory.
Shelton kept the Loggers (1-1) out in front in the second half as he scored 15 of his 22 points, including seven consecutive points scored in just over a minute span. Shelton also grabbed seven rebounds in the second half, five coming on the offensive end.
"His will to win tonight was very, very high," said head coach Justin Lunt. "He wasn't going to let this team lose. His desire was just great. He played like the player we recruited him to be and it was awesome to see him just go at it."
Junior Matt Geverola joined Shelton in double digits with 10 points, including a team-high eight points in the first half. Geverola's output helped the Loggers build a 14-point lead into the break.
In the first half, the Loggers saw their best shooting half in the short season, hitting 39.5 percent of their shots from the field. The Loggers also put up a solid defensive performance, holding the Banana Slugs (0-2) to 29.4 percent shooting and a 0-for-6 mark in three-point tries.
The game was tight, back-and-forth battle through the first 15 minutes as the Slugs built a 23-26 lead at the 4:37 mark. However, the Loggers held the Slugs scoreless over the final four-plus minutes and closed the half on a 17-0 run.
That run proved to be crucial as the tide changed in the second half. The Loggers only points in the first eight minutes of the second half came on a pair of Shelton free throws at the 18-16 mark. The Slugs went on a 10-0 run thanks to a pressuring defense and 45.5 percent shooting in the second half.
"We got a little anxious when they started pressuring us and we turned over the basketball," added Lunt. "We have to get better with that and I think its just guys getting comfortable at their positions and the tempo and speed of the game."
Riggs Yarbro finally ended the drought with a jumper just under the 12 minute mark and pushing the Logger lead back to 47-36. Shelton then took over the game, scoring seven consecutive points in the next two minutes to help build the Logger lead back to 15.
"What helped me a lot was Kaleb Shelton," commented senior Aaron Edwards. " His heart, his passion that he showed tonight was just amazing. I know I didn't want to let him down or my team."
The Slugs steadily closed the gap with their high-pressure defense to eventually tie the game at 69-69. Ryan Matsuoka drained a jumper for two of his team-leading 19 points to pull the Slugs even. However, Edwards drained a couple of huge free throws just a few seconds later to regain the lead for the Loggers, which they would not relinquish. Edwards finished with nine points and five rebounds.
"When it was my turn to spot up and shoot some free throws, I just went up an knocked them down," added Edwards about the pressure situation.
Matsuoka pulled the Slugs back within one but Erik Evans sank two free throws with just 20 seconds to seal the Loggers victory.
The Slugs actually outshot the Loggers with a 37.3 percentage from the field while the Loggers shot 34.8 percent, but the Loggers worked hard on the boards pulling down 55 rebounds to the Slugs 37 rebounds.
The Loggers host No. 13 St. Thomas tomorrow at 8 p.m. The Tommies had a come-from-behind victory in the opening game of the Tip-Off Classic against Pacific Lutheran.