14th ranked Pirates take down PLU in NWC opener

Big second half propels Pirates past the Panthers

SPOKANE, Wash. — Whitworth opened the second half with a 16-3 run to shrug off a sluggish first half during a 71-56 win over visiting Pacific Lutheran in the Northwest Conference men’s basketball opener for both teams on Friday night.

The 14th-ranked Pirates (7-3 overall, 1-0 NWC) ended a two-game losing skid and won their 30th consecutive game against the Lutes (4-6, 0-1).

PLU led for the first 16 minutes of the game after jumping out to a 7-0 lead.  After Whitworth fought back to tie the game 9-9 on a Ben College layup, Jacob Bingham’s three-pointer stretched the Lutes back to a 19-13 advantage.  PLU took a 26-18 lead on Blake Uyehara’s three-pointer with 8:20 left in the half.  The Pirates answered with an 11-2 run to go ahead by one on Garrett Hull’s baseline jumper with 4:24 to play in the half.  Whitworth eventually took a 35-34 lead to the locker rooms.

The Pirates came out of the gates on a 16-3 run to start the second half, sparked by their defense.  Whitworth made six of its first eight shots, including three-pointers by Reed Brown and College, while holding the Lutes to 1-8 from the field in the opening five minutes.  A Sam Lees jumper capped the run to give the Bucs a 51-37 lead with 15:19 to play.  Whitworth would never lead by less than double digits the rest of the way.  The Pirates went ahead by 19 points four times down the stretch, the first on Liam Fitzgerald’s basket that made the score 66-47 with just over eight minutes to play.  The final time was on a Kea Vargas three-pointer with just over a minute to go.

“We were just out of sorts in the first half,” said Whitworth head coach Damion Jablonski.  “At halftime we worked to get their attention and get us back in focus.”

After shooting 44% in the first half, the Pirates shot 54% after halftime.  The Bucs also outrebounded the Lutes 24-15 and held PLU to 32% shooting from the floor in the second period.

College led Whitworth with 21 points while Lees scored 11.  Hull led the Bucs in rebounds (10) and assists (4).

Jordan Thomas and Seth Hall scored 13 points apiece to lead PLU.  Thomas also grabbed nine boards.

Whitworth will host Puget Sound on Saturday, while PLU travels to take on Whitman.