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Whitworth pulls away for victory

When you’re gearing up to play the No. 1 team in the nation, you want to eliminate all letdowns in your game. So Matt Logie got in his team’s collective faces.

Southwestern University had just scored to cut Whitworth’s lead to just a field goal, 55-53 with nine minutes to play.

“They’ve just scored 17 unanswered points!” he barked – exaggerating the opponent’s 13-7 run for emphasis. “That’s a lack of pride!”

The home Pirates closed the game on a 19-9 run that secured a 74-59 win over the Pirates from Texas.

Dustin McConnell scored nine points in the final nine minutes and George Valle added four more to fuel Whitworth’s closing run.

The win sends Whitworth in to a 12-day break for Christmas before tangling with Wisconsin-Stevens Point, the top-ranked team in the country, according to the sponsor of the Classic in Las Vegas on Dec. 28.

“I was pleased with the defensive intensity we played with in the first half,” Logie said. “We got away for that in that stretch midway through the second half. You can’t let an opponent come down and do the same thing again and again and again, let them get into a rhythm.”

Defensive intensity, he said, is what this team has had to focus on from the start of practices. Despite starting three seniors, a junior and a sophomore who started every game a year ago, this year’s Whitworth team is made up mostly of freshmen and sophomores.

McConnell scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half to lead Whitworth. Colton McCargar, hampered by foul trouble in the second half, was 4 of 4 from 3-point range and finished with 14 points. Valle added 13.

Sean Myers scored 14 points before fouling out to lead Southwestern. Blake Scott added 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

Southwestern shot 51 percent from the field, but saw the game slip away from the free-throw line, where the Pirates were 4 for 14, missing the front end of a number of one-and-one situations.

Robby Douglas started for the second game in a row for Whitworth, adding a third senior to the lineup along with McConnell and McCargar.

That move allowed freshman Kenny Love to come off the bench, where he added 17 minutes of solid defense to go with nine points. Freshman Christian Jurlina contributed 19 minutes off the bench, scoring seven points and grabbing four rebounds.