It had to be tougher than Whitworth made it look in the first half.
And it had to be easier than it looked in the second.
It was. A little.
The eighth-ranked Pirates returned from the holiday break and posted a 98-91 Northwest Conference victory over Lewis & Clark Friday night in the Fieldhouse.
It just wasn’t the quite same team that last played there.
Tuesday, the Pirates learned that starting point guard Jordan Lester would miss the rest of the year with a knee injury he suffered with 10 seconds left in the team’s only loss this season – a 92-84 setback to Wheaton on Dec. 19.
“They’re going to have to go in and do some kind of repair,” coach Matt Logie said. “The good news is that he’ll get the year back.”
Lester, a junior from Sammamish, Washington, by way of Robert Morris, had averaged just less than 16 points per game and just less than five assists per game.
“Losing him is rough,” the coach said. “He’s a kid we recruited out of high school and we were glad to get him. Losing him will just create more opportunity for Garret Hull and Isaiah Hernandez.”
Whitworth (11-1, 3-0) made it look easy for the first 20 minutes.
Ben College was 4 for 4 from 3-point range and Kyle Roach drove the lane with ease. The Pirates hit 20 of 34 from the field while their athletic defense shut down the Pioneers on 10-of-28 shooting.
“If you look at our last few games, they’ve been a story of two halves,” Logie said. “Against Stout, we did a good job defensively in the first half and then let them back in it in the second. Same thing against Calvin.”
And same thing against the Pioneers.
With a 52-36 lead at the half, Lewis & Clark battled back with timely shooting while the Whitworth defense looked a half-step slow.
The Pirates rallied once, pushing their lead to 20 points at 74-54, but the Pioneers answered by hitting eight 3-pointers in the final 11 minutes and getting within seven points with 6 minutes to play.
“We need to put it together for 40 minutes,” Logie said. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of urgency or what, but we need to step it up in the second half.
(Lewis & Clark) did a nice job. They can fill it up.”
College and Roach each finished with 28 points and Jared Christy, who did the hard work on the boards, finished with 11 points and 12 boards.
Andrew Vickers finished with 28 points to lead Lewis & Clark (4-8, 0-3).
Whitworth hosts Pacific, which lost to Whitman Friday, at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Fieldhouse.