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Whits bid aloha with a victory

Whitworth University men’s basketball coach Jim Hayford was happy about a couple of things following Monday night’s 75-54 non-conference win over Trinity at Whitworth Fieldhouse.

For starters, the Pirates are escaping the snow, wind and bitter cold of the Pacific Northwest this morning and leaving for Honolulu, where they will face Carthage on Wednesday night in the opening round of the Surf’s Up Classic.

“I’m really happy to be leaving Spokane and heading for Hawaii,” Hayford said. “And I wish I could take all my friends with me.

“But I’m even more happy with the way we played tonight.”

That should come as no surprise to any of the 675 hardy fans who braved the elements to watch the Pirates (2-0) put away the San Antonio-based Tigers (0-3) behind another splendid defensive effort and balanced scoring attack that saw five players finish in double figures.

Junior wing Jack Loofburrow came off the bench to dump in a game-high 15 points and pull down seven rebounds. First-year senior transfer Michael Taylor scored 14 points, David Riley and Felix Friedt each added 13, and Wade Gebbers chipped in 12.

“That’s a very good basketball team,” Trinity coach Pat Cunningham said of the Pirates. “They play extremely hard, they play great defense and they’ve got a lot of kids who can score.”

Trinity hung with the Pirates through the first 13 minutes of the game, but a turnover-infested scoring drought that spanned almost 6 minutes put the Tigers at a 30-21 halftime disadvantage that proved insurmountable.

Trinity turned over the ball five times during its scoring lapse, kicking it away on three-straight possessions during one ratty stretch.

“If I had the answer, I’d have stopped it,” Cunningham said when asked about his team’s long dry spell. “But I think it was a combination of them cranking up the half-court defensive pressure, and then we stopped attacking, as well.”

Trinity made its first three shots of the second half, including a pair of 3-pointers, and sliced Whitworth’s lead to 33-31, before a 13-2 run put the Pirates back in control for good.

Hayford was once again pleased with his team’s defensive effort, which helped hold the Tigers to 36.2 percent shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers.

“After holding our first two opponents around that 50-point mark, I’m really encouraged,” he said. “And I thought our offensive execution in the second half was superb.

“When you play a team that is as good and well-coached as Trinity, and you come away with a 20-point win, that makes you a happy coach.”

On his way to Hawaii, nonetheless.