Whitworth University led for the first 31 minutes, but top-ranked Whitman outscored the third-ranked Pirates 34-14 over the final nine minutes to pull out a 91-75 win between the powerhouse Northwest Conference rivals on Tuesday night in the Sherwood Center.
The Blues used a quick 11-0 burst to turn a 61-57 deficit into a 68-61 lead with eight minutes to play and went on to improve to 14-0 overall and 5-0 in the NWC.
Kyle Roach scored a game-high 21 points for the Pirates (12-2, 4-1), who committed a season-high 29 turnovers.
No Northwest Conference men’s game has ever featured two higher-ranked opponents. This season’s regular season contest surpassed last year’s NWC tournament championship when Whitman was ranked second and the Pirates were fourth in the D3hoops.com top-25 poll.
Whitworth stood up to the pressure in the first half, turning an early 6-2 deficit into an 8-6 lead. Sam Lees hit a three-pointer to put the Bucs up 17-12 and Roach converted a three-point play to give Whitworth a 27-18 lead. It was the Pirates’ largest lead of the game. Whitman attempted a late shot to cut the halftime margin to two points, but Isaiah Hernandez grabbed the rebound and went the length of the floor to score at the buzzer and give Whitworth a 38-32 lead at the break.
The pace quickened significantly in the second half. But even though the pace of play was more to Whitman’s liking, Whitworth continued to hold the lead for most of the period. After the Blues tied the game at 48 on a pair of Joey Hewitt free throws, the Pirates pushed the lead back to 55-50 on a basket by Ben College.
Then Roach picked up his third and fourth fouls, leaving the game with 13:28 to play. The Pirates still held a 61-59 lead when Ben Bishop was whistled for an intentional foul when his elbow made contact with a Whitman player. Tim Howell hit two free throws, Jack Stewart made a three-pointer, and Austin Butler scored off of a turnover to lift Whitman to a 66-61 lead. When Cedric Jacobs-Jones put back an offensive rebound a minute later, the Blues had completed their 11-0 run and led 68-61 with eight minutes to go.
“Kyle is our most experienced back court player and when he was on the court we had control of the game,” said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. “His third and fourth fouls put us at a disadvantage that was hard to overcome.”
The Pirates were unable to respond and committed six turnovers over the next five minutes of play, allowing Whitman to stretch their lead to double digits.
“We can build on the fact that for 28 minutes in a hostile environment we had great control of the game,” Logie said. “Our young guards will learn a lot from this experience and if we continue to battle together like we did tonight, we will be just fine.”
College added 16 points, Bishop had 11 and Jared Christy finished with ten as four Pirates reached double figures in scoring. Christy grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds to lead Whitworth to a 46-37 edge in rebounding. The Pirates shot 44% from the floor, but struggled from three-point range (2-15, 15%).
Hewitt led Whitman with 20 points, while Butler had 14 points, eight steals, seven assists and five rebounds. Howell also scored 14 points. The Blues finished with five players in double figures.
Whitworth dropped its sixth straight contest to Whitman and lost its fifth consecutive game in Walla Walla.
The Pirates will try to rebound on Saturday when they host George Fox University.
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