RICHARDSON, Texas – A recent trend of close finishes continued for the Whitworth men’s basketball team on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.
And the experience gained along the way paid off.
The Pirates watched a second-half lead slowly slip away before closing with an 11-8 run, outlasting Trinity 75-73 at the Activity Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Dallas.
“We’ve won a number of close games like this through the year,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. “I feel we’re really battle-tested, maybe more battle-tested than some of our previous teams.”
The Pirates are 5-1 over their last six games, with five being decided by four or less points.
With leading scorer Colton McCargar in foul trouble and on the bench for half the game, starting guard Dustin McConnell and reserve guard Kenny Love paced Whitworth (23-5) with 15 points apiece.
Their scoring was needed to offset 36 points from Trinity forward Zach Lambert, who was 11 of 20 from the field.
McConnell, Love and reserve forward Christian Jurlina each made three 3-pointers as Whitworth shot 12 of 30 from deep.
“Trinity’s a team that plays a lot of zone and they make you beat them from outside,” Logie said. “Fortunately for us, we have some very good shooters on this team.”
Opening the second half down 36-35, McCargar drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, giving Whitworth a lead it wouldn’t surrender for the next 15 minutes.
Trinity (19-10) made its final push with 4 minutes to play, regaining the lead after Lambert buried a 3-pointer and then followed with a short baseline jumper.
But the Pirates quickly pulled back ahead on an Adam Wilks layup and a 3-pointer from McCargar. A McConnell 3-pointer was then followed by a runner from McCargar. A free throw from Taylor Farnsworth made it 75-70 with 1:35 remaining.
Trinity converted three free throws but bobbled a backdoor pass and missed a desperation hook shot in the final seconds.
“Especially down the stretch, they made a couple of big shots, shots we wanted them to take,” Trinity coach Pat Cunningham said. “They made a lot of tough shots.”
McCargar, who finished with eight points, picked up two quick fouls and sat for most of the first half. The senior guard was called for his fourth with 11 minutes remaining and he sat for the next 5 minutes.
“Certainly we’d love to have him on the floor more,” Logie said, “but on the bright side, he’ll be a little fresher (today).”
Whitworth advances to tonight’s second-round game against UT Dallas (26-3).