SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth heads into the halfway point of the Northwest Conference men's basketball schedule alone in first place in the league standings thanks to an 81-65 win over visiting Lewis & Clark on Saturday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The Pirates are 13-4 overall and 7-1 in the NWC, one game ahead of Whitman in the standings. L&C had a chance to force a three-way tie for first place with a win tonight, but the Pioneers (12-5, 5-3) drop to a tie for third place with George Fox and Puget Sound.
Whitworth never trailed, jumping to a 10-3 lead in the early going. The Bucs stretched the margin to 16-7 on Dustin McConnell's layup, but the Pioneers fought back to within 24-22 following a three-pointer by Kurt Parker. Whitworth pulled away over the final five minutes of the first half by making eight of their last ten shots from the floor, many from close range after breaking pressure. The Pirates took a 43-28 lead into the locker rooms.
"LC does a good job pressuring the basketball so we wanted to get past that pressure and get to the rim," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "We did that really well at times tonight."
When George Valle scored inside to give the Pirates a 54-38 lead just over five minutes into the second half, it appeared Whitworth had the game in control. But the Pioneers responded with a 9-0 run, including six points from Parker, to cut the lead to 54-47. Valle finally broke the Bucs' scoring drought with a basket with 9:52 to play. Leading 61-52 with 7:25 to go, Whitworth put the game away with an 11-2 run, capped by McCargar's three-pointer that increased the lead to 72-54. The Pirates took their largest lead at 79-57 with just over two minutes to play.
Five Pirates reached double figures, led by McConnell's 16 points and four assists. McCargar finished with 14, while Valle and Christian Jurlinaadded 12 each. Taylor Farnsworth capped his night with a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds. The Bucs shot 58% (32-55) as a team.
"Guys are really starting to find their roles and we are sharing the ball really well," Logie said.
"When we have so many guys able to score we become very difficult to defend."
Parker came off of the bench for 15 points to lead L&C. Connor Freeberg added 14 points and Serg Ovchinnikov finished with ten. The Pioneers shot 33.3% (20-60) as a team.
Whitworth will open the second half of Northwest Conference play next weekend by hosting Willamette (Friday) and Pacific (Saturday). The Pirates are chasing NWC history by trying to become the first team ever to win five consecutive league titles in men's basketball.