With No. 3-ranked Amherst College having fallen to Middlebury earlier in the day, Whitworth University went into Friday night’s Northwest Conference matchup against Willamette as the only remaining unbeaten NCAA Division III men’s basketball team.
And the No. 1-ranked Pirates made a huge statement in remaining that way, blistering the Bearcats 115-69 in front of a raucous, standing-room-only crowd of 1,844 at Whitworth Fieldhouse.
David Riley hit a school-record 10 3-pointers and finished with 33 points, and teammate Michael Taylor added 28 as the Bucs (22-0 overall, 13-0 in the NWC) clinched another regular-season conference championship – their fourth in five seasons – and secured home-court advantage throughout the four-team league tournament that starts Feb. 24.
Felix Friedt also had a big night for Whitworth, posting a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double. Terrell Malley and Taylor Mounts each scored 17 points for outmanned Willamette (6-16, 3-10).
And with “We are the Champions” blaring over the loud speaker, the Pirates celebrated their fifth NWC title under 10th-year head coach Jim Hayford by cutting down the nets.
“It’s just a great feeling,” said Riley, a 6-foot-5 senior, whose previous school record of eight 3-pointers in a game was tied by Jack Loofburrow in last Saturday’s 85-59 road win over Pacific Lutheran. “And the atmosphere in here tonight was amazing.
“The whole crowd was really into it.”
Riley, who also set a school record with 19 3-point attempts, finished the game 11 of 21 from the field, and also pulled down five rebounds before taking a seat on the bench with just under 9 minutes left.
“There were just a bunch of open looks, and guys were getting me the ball,” he said. “And once a few went down, I figured I might as well keep shooting.”
Still, Hayford’s first response after the game was to praise the less-glamorous parts of the game that his team handled so well.
“When you score 115 points, it’s easy to pay attention to that,” he said. “But we just forced 19 turnovers, held them to 36 percent shooting and outrebounded them by 22, so we played pretty good defense.
“And then my second thought was that Willamette did everything it could to force turnovers, and we only had nine.
“Those are the first two places my mind goes, but then quickly to the third: It’s been an absolute joy coaching David Riley, so for him – in one of his last regular-season home games – to break his own record is really special.”
Taylor finished 12 of 17 from the field and made two of the 16 3-pointers the Pirates had as a team.
Whitworth, which led 61-38 at intermission, started shoveling dirt on the Bearcats early in this one, using the torrid shooting of Riley and inside muscle of Freidt to amass a 28-8 lead less than 8 minutes in. Riley connected on three of his first four 3-point tries
The Pirates increased their advantage to 46-17 on a short jumper by Taylor with just under 8 minutes left in the first half and had plenty of cushion by then to weather any offensive storm the Bearcats were capable of stirring up.
Taylor scored Whitworth’s last six points of the first half and finished the period with 20, while Riley added 19.
The Pirates play their final regular-season home game tonight against George Fox. Tipoff is set for 8, and the seniors on this year’s roster will be honored before the game.
Whitworth 73, Willamette 67: Five Pirates (11-11, 7-6 NWC) scored in double figures, led by sophomore guard Emily Guthrie’s 14 points, as Whitworth turned back the Bearcats (3-17, 2-11) at Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Guthrie finished 4 of 10 from the field, getting all of her buckets from beyond the 3-point line, and knocked down a crucial 3 that put the Bucs up 70-65 with a little more than 1 minute left.
Jamie Lyons scored 13 points for Whitworth, which also got 11 each from Emily Travis and Taylor Taylor, who also had a game-high 12 rebounds.
Lauren Picha added 10 points for the Pirates.
Alex Zennan paced Willamette with 18 points.
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