FOREST GROVE, Ore. – Turning in its best defensive performance of the season, Whitworth opened its Northwest Conference men's basketball schedule with a 65-52 win at Pacific University on Friday night in the Stoller Center.
The Pirates improved to 7-3 overall and 1-0 in the NWC with their 11th straight win over the Boxers, who dropped to 7-3, 0-1 and saw their six-game winning streak come to an end.
Four Whitworth players reached double figures in scoring, led by Dustin McConnell's 14 points.
The Bucs never trailed, jumping out to a quick 7-2 lead following a three-point play by McConnell. But Pacific rallied to tie the contest 7-7 on Riley Grandinetti's three-pointer. It was the first of several deadlocks over the opening 12 minutes.
Whitworth finally got some separation with an 8-0 run that turned a 13-13 tie into a 21-13 lead. Christian Jurlina capped the spurt with a three-pointer. Whitworth extended the lead to 10 points by halftime and Pacific didn't get over 20 points until less than a minute was left in the opening half.
Neither squad shot well in the first half. The Pirates made only 34% from the field (25% from three-point range), but the Boxers were held to 30% (11% from beyond the arc). Whitworth held a 26-17 advantage on the boards, including a 13-7 edge in offensive rebounds.
Pacific got as close as 34-26 on a basket by Landon Littlefield four minutes into the second half, but that is as close as the Boxers would come. The Pirates eventually stretched the lead to as many as 19 points at 50-31 following a three pointer by George Valle and a breakaway layup by Colton McCargar.
Meanwhile the Whitworth defense was getting even tougher. Pacific made only three of its first 23 shots in the second half and finished the period making only 25% (9-36) from the field. The Boxers made three late three-pointers to tighten the score, getting as close as 61-50 following a trey by Mitch Wettig, but only 1:38 remained in the game at that point.
McConnell added five assists to his game-high 14 points. McCargar scored 12, all in the second half. Jurlina had 12 points off of the bench and Valle posted a double-double with 11 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. The Bucs finished with a final margin of 53-40 on the boards.
Wettig posted his own double-double for Pacific with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Grandinetti finished with ten points as the only other Boxer in double figures. Pacific's final shooting percentage of 27.4% was a season-low.
Whitworth will continue its NWC-opening trip to Oregon with a game at Willamette on Saturday night. Pacific will host Whitman.