It took big 3-pointers and some even bigger free throws to lift sixth-ranked Whitworth past the University of Redlands and into the second round of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament.
Whitworth took the lead on Dustin McConnell’s 3-pointer with 9:14 left in the second half and Colton McCargar scored seven of the Pirates’ final 12 points to ensure a 75-69 win in the Fieldhouse on Saturday night.
Trailing by six at halftime and by 10 with 13:10 left, the Pirates combined a series of defensive stops with timely shooting as McCargar, Wade Gebbers and McConnell hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to trail 56-57 with 11:34 to play.
McConnell’s 3 was especially timely.
“Colton missed his shot and the ball came off long and I ran it down in the corner,” McConnell said. “Coach had stressed how important rebounds were and I wasn’t going to let it to out-of-bounds if I could stop it.”
The junior from Clarkston not only ran down the rebound, he found himself all alone in the corner and calmly stroked in a long-range jumper.
Whitworth coach Matt Logie said he stressed defense at intermission.
“I think in the first half our transition defense was a little more porous than usual,” he said. “Hats off to Redlands. They came in prepared.”
And the Bulldogs got timely shooting in the first half while Whitworth went ice-cold, going without a field goal for the final 5:28 of the period.
Redlands was 6 of 12 from 3-point range in the first half and scored the final 10 points of the half to take the six-point lead into intermission.
Gebbers said the key to the second-half comeback was defense.
“It all starts with stops,” he said. “With this team, our offense feeds off those stops.”
One of the defensive keys for the Pirates was senior Zach Payne, who came off the bench when starter Taylor Farnsworth got into early foul trouble. Payne finished with just five points, but pulled down six big defensive rebounds, added a pair of steals in the defensive end and a blocked shot in 22 minutes.
“It always helps us when someone steps up in a situation like that,” Gebbers said. “Zach played a lot more minutes than he usually does and he did a great job.”
McCargar has been an offensive force all season for the Bucs, averaging more than 12 points per game off the bench.
Against Redlands, the Richland junior pumped in 15 of his 21 points in the second half, including a pair of clutch free throws with 28.8 seconds left.
The victory, Whitworth’s second over Redlands this season, sends the Pirates into a second-round game on Saturday against Emory of Atlanta. Whitworth officials are confident that game will be played in the Fieldhouse. An official determination will be made today.
The Pirates (25-3) scored a 70-57 win over Redlands on Dec. 19 in the second game of the Chapman tournament in California.
“This was a lot like the first game,” Redlands guard Tristan Kirk said. “In the first game we didn’t hit a shot the final five minutes of the game. This time we didn’t get the shots to fall at the end, either.
“Whitworth is a quality team and we knew they were going to be tough, especially at home.”
Kirk led Redlands with 19 points.