Whitman College, as expected, pushed the tempo of Tuesday night’s Northwest Conference matchup against Whitworth University to breakneck speed from the opening tip – and, almost as quickly, had its collective will broken by the Pirates.
Whitworth, rather than flinch in the face of the Missionaries’ trademark full-court defensive pressure, attacked unmercifully and sprinted to an early 22-3 lead en route to a 110-83 win that supercharged a Whitworth Fieldhouse crowd of 925 and pushed the 18th-ranked Pirates’ winning streak to a school record-tying 13 games.
David Riley threw in a game-high 34 points – just three short of his career high – for the Bucs (14-2 overall, 7-0 in the NWC), who rolled up a 65-35 halftime lead by shooting a remarkable 71.9 percent (23-32) and never let an overmatched and bewildered Whitman team (9-7, 3-4) up for air.
“It’s controlled chaos out there against them,” Whitworth coach Jim Hayford said of the Missionaries, after watching his Pirates move into sole possession of first place in the NWC standings, a half-game ahead of Linfield (8-6, 6-0), which invades Whitworth Field house for a crucial 8 p.m. showdown on Friday.
“You need to keep your head, stay in the right spacing and make the right decisions and you can make (the press) look silly. And, fortunately, we did that tonight.”
Riley, a 6-foot-5 junior shooting guard, dropped 22 points on the Missionaries prior to intermission and added 12 in the second half, to surpass the 1,000-point career mark. He finished 13-for16 from the field and knocked down five of eight 3-point attempts while putting on an offensive clinic.
“He scores points in bunches, that’s what scorers do,” Hayford said of Riley, who took a seat on the Pirates bench with more than six minutes left in the game and never returned. “He’s fun to watch when he gets it going.”
Senior center Nate Montgomery added 18 points and 11 rebounds for Whitworth and also earned praise from Hayford, who said, “When you have someone like him who can finish your press break, you’re going to look good.”
Another key to the Pirates’ quick start was the play of senior point guard Eric Beal, who scored only four points, but handed out eight assists and kept the Bucs poised in the face of Whitman’s relentless defensive pressure.
Hayford emptied his bench early in this one, but the Pirates still managed to shoot 69 percent (40 of 58) from the floor, including 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3-point range.
Whitman, which did manage to hurry Whitworth into 23 turnovers, suffered through two early scoring droughts – once of which lasted just over 4 ½ minutes and never recovered. The Missionaries, who got a team-high 14 points from Brandon Shaw and finished with five players in double figures, made only one of its first six shots and turned the ball over five times in the first six minute of the game, which all but decided the issue.