It felt like trouble for Whitworth.
They trailed Pacific University 8-3 with 17:58 left in the first half. That’s dire straits by Pirates standards these days. The slow start forced head coach Jim Hayford to call a timeout, and that wasn’t even a full one.
After that timeout Whitworth, the nation’s third-ranked NCAA Division III men’s basketball team, went on to outscore the Boxers 20-1 and cruised to a 94-48 win to remain perfect on the season with record of 17-0 overall and 8-0 in the Northwest Conference.
“That was a defensive timeout,” Hayford said after the game. “We also had two possessions where we didn’t execute the offense … had to nip it in the bud, it was a good parenting timeout.”
The bud was nipped and the Boxers were done.
During that Pirates run 6-foot-1 Whitworth guard Clay Gebbers scored 11 points, nine coming from 3-point range. Gebbers had 17 at the half on 6-for-8 shooting, 5-for-6 from behind the 3-point line. He finished with a career-high 20 points. Teammate Jack Loofburrow stole game-high honors with 24.
“He told me he wanted to make up for his brother’s share,” Hayford said of Clay Gebbers. Wade Gebbers was out of the lineup Friday night because of an injury.
Along the way the Pirates broke the team record for 3-pointers when David Riley hit Whitworth’s 19th for the game. On Dec. 12 last year the Pirates hit 18 against Whittier, and on Jan. 7, made 17 against Pacific Lutheran.
The last time the Pirates trailed at home was on Jan. 8 against Puget Sound. That time, down 20-14 against the Loggers, Whitworth stole the momentum by reeling off eight straight points and never trailed again.
The mood right now at the Whitworth Fieldhouse is so festive that even Hayford is smiling a little bit more than normal.
“I’m really enjoying coaching this team,” he said. “It’s harvest time right now; we’ve done the underground work.”