Dinner, or perhaps a late lunch, was on Whitworth University’s men’s basketball team Sunday afternoon.
The unbeaten Pirates, who are ranked No. 7 in the latest D3hoops.com poll, threw in a school-record 18 shots from beyond the 3-point arc to beat down Whittier College 86-65 at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
And in the process, they treated the 1,180 in attendance to a coupon for a free sandwich at a local Arby’s franchise.
NCAA rules prevented Whitworth’s players from sharing in the post-game spoils. But after feasting on the Poets (4-4) defense throughout most of Sunday’s non-conference matinee mismatch, it’s unlikely that any of the Bucs (8-0) had much of an appetite.
Senior wing David Riley shot himself out of a minor slump by knocking down 7 of 14 3-point attempts to finish with a game-high 25 points, and three teammates finished in double figures as the Pirates ran their home winning streak to 26.
“We knew if was coming one of these days,” Riley said of his team’s record shooting performance. “We’ve got a lot of good shooters who can really spread the floor, and once a few guys hit 3s today, it really opened things up.”
Along with Riley’s considerable contributions – which included five rebounds – the Pirates also got 19 points from senior guard Michael Taylor, a first-year transfer from Montana, and 10 each from senior guard Clay Gebbers and junior forward Jack Loofburrow.
But the most remarkable statistic was Whitworth’s 18 made 3s, which was six more than the Bucs converted on 23 tries from inside the 3-point arc.
“We had prepped for their zone,” Pirates coach Jim Hayford said of the Poets, “and it’s a zone that offers some of those (3-point) opportunities. But we made a lot against their man (defense), too.
“I just think we’re a good-shooting team that got some open looks and did what good-shooting teams do.”
It helped that Whittier focused a lot of its defensive attention on the Bucs’ 6-8 junior center, Felix Friedt, who scored a career-high 20 points in Friday night’s 92-61 rout of visiting UC Santa Cruz.
“They decided to pick their poison and help down low on Felix,” Riley said of Friedt, who took only four shots and finished with eight points. “And that really created some chances for the rest of us on the perimeter.”
Whitworth sprinted to an early 24-7 lead against the run-and-gun Poets, who were never able to establish any consistency in their half-court game, and stayed in control the rest of the way.
“We’re playing hard and smart right now,” Hayford said of his Bucs, who will head back out on the road to take on Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in Claremont, Calif., next Sunday, before returning home to face Ripon and Colorado College on Dec. 28-29. “We’re going to get tested these next three games, because we’re playing teams with winning records that are picked to finish high in their conferences.
“So, we need to keep getting better and better, and I think we will.”