SPOKANE, Wash. – Demonstrating that they are starting to find consistency on both ends of the floor, the Whitworth Pirates rolled past visiting Pacific University 83-58 in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Saturday night.
The Bucs improved to 15-4 overall and 9-1 in the NWC by shooting 58% from the field, holding the Boxers to 41% and grabbing a 35-20 edge in rebounding.
Four Pirates hit double figures in scoring, led by Colton McCargar's 17 points. And for the second night in a row, the Whitworth bench outscored the starting lineup – 44-41. Daniel Zitani, the NWC's leading scorer this season, had 14 points to lead Pacific (11-8 overall, 4-6 NWC).
There were three ties and three lead changes over the first 12 minutes of the game. When Riley Grandinetti drilled a three Pacific was within 20-19 with 8:19 to play in the opening half. But then the Pirates got going. Kenny Love's three-pointer gave Whitworth its first double-digit lead of the game (33-23) and by the time McCargar drained a trey with 34 seconds left in the half, Whitworth had extended the lead to 46-23. Eric Moore finished the half with a three-ball for Pacific to pull the Boxers within 46-26 at the break.
After Budweiser Hawkins scored the opening basket of the second half for Pacific, Whitworth started to break the game open with a 12-4 run, which included a three from Dustin McConnell and another from McCargar. The Pirates led by 28 points, their largest lead of the game, on two occasions in the second half, the final time when Austin Wood hit a three from the corner for a 72-44 advantage with nine minutes to play.
"I think our offensive rhythm is much better now than earlier in the season," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "The guys have more confidence, they are sharing the ball well and making it really hard for teams to defend us."
Whitworth was 30-52 (57.7%) from the field, 44% (11-25) from three-point range. In addition to McCargar's 17 points, Christian Jurlina and Kenny Love came off of the bench for 13 points apiece. McConnell finished with 10 points and five assists.
But it wasn't just the offense that worked well. Love's six rebounds led the Pirates' efforts on the boards and Pacific struggled to make shots against the Whitworth defense.
"Our defensive execution has really improved as well," Logie said. "We are eliminating the individual mistakes we saw earlier in the season."
Pacific took more than half of its shots from three-point range (25 of the 49 total attempts) and made eight of those long-balls (32%). Hawkins joined Zitani in double figures with ten points. Mitch Wettig led the Boxers with four rebounds.
Whitworth extended its winning streak over Pacific to 12 in a row.
The Pirates remain a game ahead of Whitman for first place in the NWC standings and will make an important road swing through Tacoma next weekend with games at Puget Sound (Friday) and Pacific Lutheran (Saturday).