Orange, CA - Dustin McConnell had 19 points and seven rebounds to lead 11th-ranked Whitworth to a 70-57 win over Redlands on Wednesday night at Chapman's Hutton Sports Center.
he Pirates (8-1) closed the game with a 20-2 run to overcome the Bulldogs (7-3) and claimed their eighth straight win.
"Today's victory was a credit to the way we responded in the second half after not playing to our potential in the first half," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "I was proud of the tenacity we showed when we got down by five midway through the second half, and our execution late in the game was terrific."
The teams traded leads five times over the first 20 minutes. Whitworth appeared in control when Hank Aldous scored to give the Bucs a 27-22 lead with just over two minutes to go.
The Pirates still led 29-26 in the final seconds when Aldous was fouled while shooting a three-pointer with a second to play. However he was given only two free throws by the officials. As the Pirate staff protested, Aldous missed both tries and Whitworth was assessed a technical foul when head coach Matt Logie went to stand where Aldous was fouled as the teams walked off of the floor at halftime. Redlands used the two free throws before the beginning of the second half to spark a 16-8 run over the first five minutes.
The Bulldogs still led by five points (55-50) after a jumper by Brian Kuklok with just under eight minutes to play. But Redlands would score only one more basket as the Whitworth defense forced four turnovers and nine missed shots during the Pirates' 20-2 run to close the game. George Valle's three-pointer gave Whitworth the lead for good (57-55) and McConnell followed with a three of his own. McConnell hit 7-13 from the field, including 5-8 from three-point range. But the rest of the Pirates were only 1-16 from beyond the arc.
Valle added 11 points while Wade Gebbers scored nine points to go along with five assists and five steals. Whitworth centers combined for 18 points, including eight each by Taylor Farnsworth and Zach Payne. Whitworth shot 46.4% from the field and outrebounded Redlands 36-30. The Pirates forced 17 turnovers on 12 steals.
"On a night when our shots weren't going down, Dustin was able to carry the load for us offensively," Logie said. "And again our post players combined for the interior points that were critical."
Kuklok led Redlands with 13 points while Tristan Kirk added 12 points and eight rebounds. The Bulldogs made 40.4% of their shots. Whitworth returns home to host Simpson College (Iowa) on Saturday at 7:00 pm.