BELTON, Texas – Felix Friedt scored a career-high 35 points as No. 7-ranked Whitworth University held off a pesky McMurry University 90-79 Friday to advance to the second round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
“My 35 points was a tribute to the team,” Friedt said. “I had more room. Usually, the teams in our league pack it in pretty good and try to run out at shooters. Today, I had the space to get one or two dribbles in and that’s all it took.”
Friedt hit 9 of 16 shots from the field and 16 of 17 from the free-throw line.
Whitworth will play Trinity tonight at 5 p.m. Pacific. The Tigers upset host Mary Hardin-Baylor 68-66 in the other first-round game.
In a physical game, the Pirates (25-3) shot 57 percent from the field, but the War Hawks (20-9) kept pace behind the play of bench player Alfred Perez, who scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds in the first half.
The War Hawks, who came into the tournament riding a five-game winning streak, trailed 41-37 during a back-and-forth first half.
In the second half, the Bucs built leads of 10 points twice only to see the War Hawks battle to within four points with less than 4 minutes to play.
Friedt then took over in the post and from the free-throw line, going 10 for 10 in the second half.
“They are obviously an excellent team and they outplayed us in the post area,” McMurry coach J.D. Isler said. “Their post people really had a good game. We struggled a little bit trying to figure out how we were going to play them.”
Whitworth’s leading scorer, Idris Lasisi, was held to six points in the first half, but helped hold off the War Hawks with 10 second-half points.
“I wasn’t too worried about it,” Lasisi said of his slow start. “We had a lot of players step up and get us going. I just knew I had to stay focused and let the game come to me.”
Wade Gebbers also scored 10 points in the second half to finish with 11.
“We were happy to come out here and get a ‘W’ tonight,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. “It was a hard-fought battle and our guys really did a good job fighting through those things and finding ways to get the job done.”
McMurry, known for long-range shooting, hit just 2 of 21 from the 3-point line.
“I thought we did a good job of defending the 3-point line,” Logie said. “One of our strengths, especially late in the year, has been our ability to contest shooters and it certainly helps when you’ve got a guy on the inside, defensively, to all allow us to stay out there and pressure them.”
The win extends the Bucs’ winning streak to 12 games and marked the fifth consecutive tournament they have advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.