The No. 21 Whitworth Pirates never surrendered the lead, but they also didn’t feel like they earned the 90-83 victory over Willamette on Saturday night at Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The Pirates (17-2, 10-0 Northwest Conference) had one of their best shooting nights of the year (50.8 percent), but the Bearcats kept making runs and just would not go away.
“I’m disappointed with the way we prepared for this game,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. “I’m disappointed in the way we didn’t finish the play, finish the segment or the game as far as the killer instinct is concerned.”
The start of the game was all Taylor Farnsworth (Mead). The senior center scored 10 of the Pirates’ first 15 points and his block led to two more for George Valle, who led all scorers with 21 points to go with 10 rebounds.
“Taylor got us off to a good start,” Logie said. “George was aggressive and did some good things offensively.”
Except for one missed layup in the second half, Farnsworth hit everything he threw at the basket. He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
“I guess I wasn’t keeping track, but I knew I was going pretty well at the start,” Farnsworth said.
Behind the scoring of Farnsworth and Valle, the Pirates led by as many as 16 points in the first half.
The Bearcats (6-13, 4-6) then went on a 17-3 run to get within a point before the Pirates made another run and finished with a 45-35 lead at the break.
In the second half, the teams traded baskets, fouls and free throws. Behind the 22 points from Brandon Luedtke and 19 from Bridger Harlington, the Bearcats eventually shaved the lead to only six points with 19 seconds to play.
But Kyle McNally missed a jumper and time ran out on the Willamette comeback.
“It was a massive grind,” said Whitworth wing Christian Jurlina, who scored 12 points. “To put it bluntly, it was an ugly game. Credit goes to them for challenging us. But credit to our guys for pulling it out.”
The Pirates’ Kenny Love scored 12 points and Derek Isaak hit a trio of 3-pointers off the bench to finish with nine points. Adam Wilks scored seven points and had seven rebounds.
Valle said the Bearcats would respond to every good play by the Pirates with one of their own.
“It definitely didn’t feel like a win,” he said. “We were getting beat to loose balls and rebounds. I think defensively is where we lacked tonight.”
Whitworth won the battle of the boards 39-30 and outscored Willamette 48-30 in the paint.
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