Whitworth University seemed in no hurry Sunday afternoon to start its next long home-court winning streak.
But with 7 seconds left in a nonconference men’s basketball matchup against visiting Northwestern (Minn.) College, first-year head coach Matt Logie called a timeout and sketched out a length-of-the-court play that freed up Idris Lasisi for a long 3-point shot from the right wing.
And when Whitworth’s senior forward, who had struggled with his shooting all game long, buried the mildly contested attempt with a second left on the game clock, the eighth-ranked Pirates escaped with a 78-76 win over the Eagles.
The hard-earned victory came in the wake of an unexpected 83-73 home loss to Montana Tech on Dec. 10 that snapped a 41-game Whitworth Fieldhouse winning streak. And it put the Pirates (7-1) in a good place mentally heading into a difficult part of their schedule that has them playing their next three games, all nonconference affairs, on the road.
Felix Friedt finished with a 26-point, 12-rebound double-double for the Bucs, who also got 16 points – and a key assist on Lasisi’s game-winning shot – from Wade Gebbers in turning back a Northwestern team (5-6) that shot 56.4 percent (31 of 55) from the field and knocked down 14 of 21 attempts from 3-point range.
Logie, when asked about the final play that ended up with the ball in the hands of Lasisi – who had previously converted on only 1 of 6 3-point tries – was quick to defend his decision.
“At the end of the day, he’s still shooting 43, 44 percent from 3,” he said of Lasisi, a 6-foot-2 first-year transfer from North Idaho College, who finished with 15 points. “But we really had a number of different options.”
The idea, Logie added, was to get the ball in the hands of Gebbers, who ended up dribbling through pressure to the find Lasisi coming of a screen by Friedt.
“Wade is such a good decision maker,” Logie explained, “and I felt between him, Idris and Felix, we had three guys – depending on what they did defensively – who would have a chance to get a good look at the rim.
“As it turned out, Felix made a great screen, Wade made the right read, and Idris stepped up with some confidence.”
That late-game sequence overshadowed the individual performances of Friedt and junior forward Mack Larkin, who scored 10 of his 14 points in the first 3 minutes of the second half to shake the Pirates out their first-half defensive funk.
“Mack made some shots on offense,” Logie said of Larkin, “but where his impact was felt the most was defensively. Our intensity level was so much higher to start the second half, and with him and Idris playing so hard, we were able to get some stops and regain some momentum – and you can feed off that, offensively.”
Of Friedt’s effort, which included 7-for-10 shooting from the field and numerous trips to the foul line, Logie added: “He was just terrific. We did a good job of getting the ball inside on a consistent basis, which we needed to do.
“Obviously, Felix faced a lot of double teams and physical play, but he was able to work through that and find ways to score.”
Northwestern, which got 17 points from Ethan Benton and 15 each from Wade Chitwood and Lance Westberg, was content to snipe from the perimeter most of the game, and seldom challenged the Bucs inside – which had a lot to do with the fact the Eagles did not attempt a foul shot.
Northwestern, Minnesota (5-6) — Gisler 4-9 0-0 10, Benton 7-7 0-0 17, Jefferson 1-2 0-0 2, Reep 0-0 0-0 0, Chitwood 6-16 0-0 15, Libby 3-6 0-0 9, Kiekoefer 2-3 0-0 4, Kettenacker 2-3 0-0 4, Westberg 6-9 0-0 15, Totals 31-55 0-0 76.
Whitworth (7-1) — Lasisi 6-15 1-4 15, Larkin 5-9 1-2 14, Friedt 7-10 12-14 26, McConnell 1-4 0-0 3, Gebbers 5-8 2-2 16, Payne 0-1 0-0 0, McCargar 0-1 0-0 0, Douglas 1-4 0-0 2, Taylor 1-1 0-0 2, Totals 26-53 16-22 78.
Halftime—Northwestern 36-35. 3-Point Goals—Northwestern 14-21 (Gisler 2-3, Benton 3-3, Chitwood 3-6, Libby 3-4, Westberg 3-5), Whitworth 10-23 (Lasisi 2-7, Larkin 3-6, McConnell 1-3, Gebbers 4-6, Douglas 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Northwestern 20 (Kiekoefer, Kettenacker 4), Whitworth 27 (Friedt 12). Assists—Northwestern 19 (Chitwood 8), Whitworth 13 (Gebbers 4). Total Fouls—Northwestern 20, Whitworth 8. A—350.