It was never going to last forever.
But few of those on hand Saturday night for Whitworth University’s nonconference men’s basketball matchup against visiting Montana Tech expected the Pirates’ 41-game home-court winning streak to end in the manner it did.
Tech, which came in sporting a middling record and shooting just less than 40 percent from the field, buried its first five field-goal attempts in sprinting to a 10-point lead and went on to upset the sixth-ranked and previously unbeaten Bucs 83-73 in front of a Whitworth Fieldhouse crowd of 670.
The NAIA Orediggers (5-4) got 23 points from Adam Greger and had four other players score in double figures in handing Whitworth (6-1) its first home loss since Jan. 16, 2009, when Northwest Conference rival Puget Sound thumped the Pirates 89-77.
Greger, a 6-foot-6 freshman wing, converted on 8 of 11 shots – including both he launched from beyond the 3-point line – and Montana Tech finished the game shooting 60 percent (27 for 45). Tech also shot 20 more free throws and outscored the Bucs 21-7 from the foul line.
“They certainly shot the ball well tonight, so credit to them,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said of the Orediggers. “But they were also getting pretty good looks, and that ultimately falls on us.”
The normally defensive-conscious Pirates found stops tough to come by.
“I take responsibility for our defensive execution and game planning, which weren’t up to snuff tonight,” Logie said. “And that’s something we need to refocus on.”
Whitworth, which got 23 points from Idris Lasisi and 20 from Wade Gebbers, weathered Tech’s early charge and carved out a 45-42 lead at intermission on a desperation 3-pointer by Gebbers that just beat the halftime buzzer.
The Pirates built their lead to 64-59 midway through the second half, but then suffered through an uncharacteristic scoring drought that lasted almost 6 minutes and let Montana Tech loose on a 14-0 run that decided the issue.
Whitworth, with senior center Felix Freidt on the bench with four fouls, missed all eight shots it tried during its scoring swoon and turned the ball over three times.
Without Freidt as an option down low, the Pirates settled almost exclusively for perimeter jumpers and made just 3 of 19 attempts from 3-point range, after going 11 for 21 on first-half 3s.
“That old adage, ‘You live by the 3 and you die by the 3,’ was true tonight,” Logie said. “They kept us in the ballgame in the first half, but I thought we got away from how we normally attack in the second …”
Freidt finished the game with 11 points and a game-high six rebounds, but was not a major factor on offense, taking just five shots.
“They battled him and made his touches difficult,” Logie said of 6-foot-8 Freidt, who came in averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game. “And at the same time, he did have a hard time getting into a rhythm because of that foul trouble. … But that’s something he and us both need to learn to play through, and we certainly didn’t do a great job of it tonight.”