Posted on January 5, 2014 at 1:02 AM
SALEM, Ore. – Whitworth University used a 25-0 run early in the second half to turn a 12-point first half deficit into a 64-53 Northwest Conference victory at Willamette on Saturday night in Cone Field House.
The Pirates outscored the Bearcats 41-22 in the second half to improve to improve to 8-3 overall and 2-0 in the NWC. Willamette (2-9, 0-2) lost a double-digit lead at home for the second straight night.
The Bearcats got out to a 13-6 lead as Whitworth missed seven of its first nine shots from the field. Willamette extended the lead to 27-16 on a basket by Avery Manu and extended that margin to 31-19 on a jumper by Alex Brown with 2:10 to play in the opening half. The Pirates began the comeback with back-to-back baskets by Adam Wilks and Dustin McConnell, closing to 31-23 at the break.
Whitworth made only 25% (7-28) from the field in the first half, 22% (2-9) from three-point range. Meanwhile Willamette made 46% (13-28).
"Our guys have high expectations for themselves and this team, but sometimes that creates undue pressure," said Pirate head coach Matt Logie. "At halftime I told them to go out and have some fun."
The fun manifested itself in that 25-0 run that completely turned the tide in Whitworth's favor. After Willamette scored the opening basket of the second period to retake a 10-point lead (33-23), the Pirates dominated the Bearcats over the next eight minutes. Colton McCargar's three-pointer gave Whitworth a 38-33 lead and a long three by Kenny Love extended the advantage to 43-33. By the time Love canned a pair of free throws with 10:36 to go, the Bucs had gone ahead 48-33. Talanoa Smith's three-pointer ended the drought for the Bearcats.
Whitworth essentially put the game away when McConnell finished a fastbreak layup to put the Pirates up 57-40 with 4:40 to go, despite the fact that Willamette got within 59-49 with 2:05 to go after a quick 9-2 run.
"I felt like the guys stopped pressing on offense," Logie said. "We played with great spirit in that half on both ends of the floor."
McCargar scored 18 points to lead Whitworth with 12 of those points coming in the second half. Wilks came off of the bench for a career-high 13 points and McConnell finished with 11 points and five assists. George Valle just missed his second straight double-double, scoring ten points and leading the Bucs with nine rebounds.
Whitworth made 62% of its shots in the second half (13-21) and finished with a 41-27 edge in rebounding.
Alex Hansen scored ten points and was the only Bearcat in double figures. Manu finished with nine points and a team-high seven boards.
The Pirates, riding their first three-game winning streak of the season, return home to host Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound next Friday and Saturday in a pair of NWC contests.