SPOKANE – Stifling defense forced 22 turnovers and led the Whitworth women’s basketball team to a 59-56 upset over No. 19 Whitman College, handing the Missionaries their first conference loss of the season in the Whitworth Fieldhouse on Tuesday evening.
“I thought our defense was excellent, especially in creating turnovers and extra possessions,” Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. “Once again our bench and starters got the job done. Emily Travis provided a spark on both ends of the court when she came in.”
Whitworth improves to 10-4 overall, 3-2 in the Northwest Conference, while Whitman falls to 11-2, 4-1 in the NWC.
After falling behind 8-0 in the first two minutes of play, junior Kendra Lahue hit a three-pointer to spark a 14-6 run for the Pirates. Redshirt junior Emily Travis sank a free throw to tie the game with just under 13 minutes remaining in the half, and senior Lauren Picha made a three-pointer a minute and a half later to give Whitworth its first lead of the night. The teams tied and traded leads over the next five minutes of play before a 8-0 Whitman run put the Missionaries up 28-20. The Bucs answered, and a three-pointer from sophomore Kendra Knutsen with a minute remaining in the half pulled Whitworth within one point. The Pirates trailed Whitman 29-28 at halftime.
The Pirates opened the second half with two offensive rebounds and junior Kayla Johnson used them to make a layup and put the Bucs out in front. Whitworth maintained its lead, enjoying a seven point lead on an Emily Travis jumper with 6:01 remaining in the game. Whitman responded by forcing the fifth tie on the night with four and a half minutes left to play, but Emily Travis sank two free throws to re-establish the Whitworth lead. Whitman was able to pull within two points with nine seconds left, but Emily Travis made yet another shot from the charity strip to seal Whitworth’s victory.
“We had another great team effort tonight in getting a big win against Whitman,” Higgs said. “I was really proud of our mental toughness after our weekend (losses) in Oregon.”
The Pirates converted the 22 Whitman turnovers into 14 Whitworth points and got 33 points from its bench to push past the Missionaries. The Pirates shot 75 percent (21-28) from the free throw line, with Emily Travis (5-8) leading the way.
Emily Travis led the Pirates with 18 points and five rebounds. Kayla Johnson and Kendra Knutsen each added nine points for Whitworth, while freshman KC McConnell, senior Emily Guthrie, Lauren Picha and junior Jamie Lyons all had four rebounds apiece. Guthrie and Travis each had two steals for Whitworth, while six other Pirates had a steal apiece.
Sarah Anderegg had 18 points to lead Whitman, while Meghan White grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Missionaries. Heather Johns chipped in 10 points and pulled down eight boards for Whitman. Meghan White had a game-high three blocks for Whitman.
Next up, Whitworth will face George Fox at 6:00 pm on Friday, January 11th in Newberg.