Outrebounded and outshot, the Whitworth men’s basketball team spent most of Saturday night’s game behind on their home court.
But in a game with just two lead changes, Whitworth forced the more important one with 2 1/2 minutes left, and it held on for a 77-75 victory over the Lewis & Clark Pioneers, ending the Pirates’ two-game losing streak.
“This was just good for us in terms of our spirit, knowing that even on an off night we can rally and pull out a win,” said senior Kyle Roach, who had 16 points on 6-of-19 shooting and a career-best four blocks.
The Pioneers led by as many as 11 and held the lead for all but the first 4 and final 2 minutes. They also outrebounded the Pirates 44-38, just the third Northwest Conference team to do so this year.
But the 10th-ranked Pirates (17-4, 9-3) made enough free throws and baskets down the stretch to hold off the Pioneers (7-14, 3-9), who had won two of their last three games.
“I thought this game was won with our grit and experience,” Pirates coach Matt Logie said. “Not our best offensive night, going 3 for 20 from (3-point range). … Sometimes you gotta win ugly and I thought our guys really dug in deep to do that tonight.”
Junior Ben College led the Pirates with a game-high 20 points, but he was just 2 of 8 from beyond the arc, contributing to a season-worst performance by Whitworth from 3-point range.
The Pirates also finished 16 of 27 at the free-throw line, their lowest percentage (59.2) since a nonconference loss to Texas-Dallas in November. They hit only 43.3 percent of their field-goal attempts, nearly 10 percentage points less than their season average.
They were also without starting point guard Jordan Lester, who was sick and didn’t play. It marked the first time Whitworth changed its starting lineup all season.
Sophomore Isaiah Hernandez (Lewis and Clark High) got the start, his first with the Pirates. He played 36 minutes, scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds. He also finished 7 of 7 at the free-throw line.
“Isaiah did a good job of filling in and setting the table for guys, had a couple big buckets and pushed the tempo in transition when we made our run,” Logie said.
Most of the night, Whitworth couldn’t get its offense into a rhythm. It had just six assists on 29 made baskets, the first time with fewer than 11 all season.
“I thought early in the game we didn’t get to the second and third layer of our offense. We just attacked through one-on-one and we needed to create some advantages for ourselves through execution,” Logie said. “In the second half, we did a better job of that.”
The Pirates took advantage of 16 turnovers by the Pioneers, who went just 6 of 11 at the free-throw line.
The Pirates remain at home next weekend, when they host Linfield and George Fox.
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