DALLAS – Twelfth-ranked Whitworth survived a 36-point night by Zach Lambert of Trinity University and advanced to the NCAA Division III men’s basketball second round with a 75-73 victory over the Tigers on Friday night in the University of Texas at Dallas Activity Center.
The Pirates (23-5) got 15 points each from Dustin McConnell and Kenny Love to win their first game up in the NCAA Division III tournament for the eighth year in a row. Trinity finishes the season 19-10 after winning the Southern Collegiate Athletics Conference for the third straight year.
“This was a great game between two teams with great senior leadership,” said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. “I tip my hat to Trinity and Zach Lambert, they played great. But I am really proud of my guys for hanging in there against such an outstanding performance.”
The Pirates controlled much of the opening half, jumping to a 10-6 lead on a three-pointer by Christian Jurlina. McConnell’s three-pointer made it 17-9 and the Bucs took their largest lead (22-13) on another Jurlina three with nine minutes to go in the half. Whitworth opened the game by making five of nine from three-point range.
But then Lambert started to exert his influence on the game. His three-pointer cut Whitworth’s lead to 28-27 and Craig Salterelli’s basket gave the Tigers their first lead of the game (29-28) 30 seconds later. Whitworth went back up 33-29 on Jurlina’s third three-pointer of the first half, but Trinity closed the half on a 7-2 run with Lambert scoring just before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 36-35 lead at the break.
Lambert had 18 of his 36 points at halftime, as Trinity made 56.5% from the field in the opening half. Whitworth was 13-25 (52%) from the field in the first half, including 7-17 (41%) from three-point range.
“Trinity plays a lot of zone and they make you beat them from the outside,” Logie said. “Fortunately we were able to do that for much of the game.”
The Pirates opened the second half with a quick 7-1 run of their own to go up 42-37. Colton McCargar, who sat most of the first half with foul trouble and didn’t score in the opening period, hit a three to spark the spurt. The game settled into a flow of Trinity pulling back to within one and Whitworth extending the lead back to five over the next 12 minutes of the game. A Taylor Farnsworth layup gave the Pirates a 62-57 lead with 6:00 to play. But Lambert hit a midrange jumper with 3:39 to play to give Trinity the lead back at 65-64.
Then the teams’ seniors traded huge shots. McCargar and McConnell sandwiched three-pointers around one from Trinity’s Robert Kintzinger. With 1:54 to go, Whitworth had a 74-70 lead. The final Pirate point came on a free throw by Farnsworth with 1:35 left. The Pirates led 75-73 with 19 seconds left and had a chance to ice the game at the free throw line, but missed the front end of a one and one. Matt Selling and Zach Lambert had shots at tying the game for Trinity, but their shots would not fall.
“It’s about making each possession matter when the game is on the line, both on offense and defense,” said McConnell.
Whitworth finished the game 53% (29-55) from the field. The Pirates were 12-30 (40%) from three-point range. Jurlina joined McConnell and Love in double figures with 11 points. Farnsworth had nine points and led the Bucs with seven rebounds.
The Whitworth defense tightened in the second half as the Tigers were held to 38.5% from the field after halftime. Lambert was 11-20 from the floor (3-6 from three) and 11-14 from the free throw line for his 36 points. Kintzinger added 16 points and Matt Selling had ten for Trinity.
Lambert’s 36 points were the second-most ever scored against Whitworth in the NCAA Division III tournament. Wheaton’s Kent Raymond scored 48 points in a sweet 16 game against the Pirates in 2008.
The Bucs are now 11-8 all-time in nine appearances in the NCAA Division III tournament.
Whitworth will take on either host UT-Dallas or Chapman (Calif.) in the second round on Saturday night at 7:00 pm (5:00 pm PST).