BELTON, Texas –Idris Lasisi hit six 3-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points, but Whitworth University nearly squandered a 21-point second-half lead in its 64-53 win Saturday to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Behind Lasisi’s five 3-pointers and 17 first-half points, the Pirates (26-3) built a 33-23 lead at the break. They opened the second half on a 13-2 run to take a 46-25 lead with 16:25 left in the second half.
Then the Tigers (21-9), who upset No. 10-ranked and host University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Friday, closed the gap to within 47-44 with the help of 19-1 run.
Jack Loofburrow (13 points, 3 of 5 from the 3-point line) then helped extend the lead to 60-47 with a pair of 3-pointers and a rebound putback with 3:44 left in the game.
“We’re happy to come out of here with two wins,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. “Trinity really gave us all we could handle their in the second half and we were able to withstand that run and get some stops down the stretch that were key.”
Loofburrow said a key to stopping Trinity’s run was a timeout when the Tigers pulled to within three points.
“We came into the huddle for the timeout and coach said, ‘Be positive and to keep our composure,’ ” Loofburrow said. “We came out and I guess I was in the right spot at the right times to make those plays.”
Felix Friedt (12 points, eight rebounds) was held to just four points in the first half, but he went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line down the stretch to help stave off the Tigers’ run.
“I thought that they played extremely well,” Trinity coach Pat Cunningham said of Whitworth. “They made the plays down the stretch to win the basketball game.”
Despite being held to just 19-of-56 shooting from the floor, Logie said the Bucs had another strength.
“I thought our defense was the difference,” Logie said. “To hold a team that can shoot like that to 53 points and 5 of 22 from 3 was really outstanding. I thought our offense came and went, but we made big shots when we needed them.”
The win was Whitworth’s 13th in a row and marked the second straight year the Pirates have advanced to the round of 16 in the tournament.
Last year, Whitworth advanced to the Elite Eight before being knocked out of the tournament by Wooster.