Whitworth spent most of the night struggling to solve Pacific’s zone defense.
In the end it was the Pirates’ defense that created enough fast-break opportunities to turn back the stubborn Boxers 65-55 in a Northwest Conference basketball game Friday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
“I was proud of our guys for continuing to stay focused on the defensive end,” said first-year head coach Matt Logie, whose 10th-ranked Pirates preserved a two-game lead in the NWC.
The Pirates (12-2 overall, 5-0 NWC) play Linfield tonight as part of a doubleheader that begins with the women’s game at 6. Linfield lost 67-65 Friday night at Whitman, which in turn visits Whitworth on Tuesday to complete the Pirates’ three-games-in-five-days home stand.
The Boxers came into the game as one of six NWC teams tied for second place behind Whitworth in the loss column, but fell to 2-3 in the NWC and 8-6 overall.
Key steals and rebounds in the second half offset a poor shooting night for Whitworth, which survived its worst 3-point-shooting performance of the season (3 for 15, or 20 percent).
A good defense turned out to be its best offense.
“We talked at halftime about finding ways to get points out of our transition offense,” Logie said.
Felix Friedt scored 18 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to lead the Pirates. Wade Gebbers scored 16 and Michael Taylor added 15 for the winners.
The points didn’t come easily.
Typical was guard Idris Lasisi, who made just 1 of 10 shots but came up with two steals and six rebounds.
The Boxers’ last lead was at 10-9 just 6 minutes into the game, but they stayed close throughout.
Guard Colton McCargar’s steal and layin put Whitworth ahead for good at 15-12 less than 8 minutes into the game. Later, a fast-break bucket by guard Gebbers gave Whitworth a 25-16 lead, its largest of the half, but Pacific fought back and trailed by just 29-24 at halftime.
At the other end of the court, Pacific guard Colin Wester hit three long-range shots and led all scorers at intermission with 11. He finished with a game-high 20. Friedt and Gebbers each had 10 at intermission for Whitworth.
Pacific scored the first four points of the second half to cut the gap to one, but center Michael Taylor hit two free throws and Gebbers hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to six, 34-28.
“We had some good looks tonight,” Logie said. “Overall, we’re a good 3-point-shooting team, so I’ve given the guys the green light.”
It paid off with 11:26 left, when Gebbers’ 3-point shot bounced high – and in – to make it 47-37 with 11:26 left and give the Pirates some breathing room.
Yet another Boxers threat was blunted when Taylor wrestled a loose ball into the basket, then made the free throw to make it 52-41 with 9:08 remaining.