Puget Sound hasn’t climbed steadily in the national rankings this season simply because it’s a little more proficient putting the ball in the basket than most.
The 12th-ranked Loggers are built to beat teams in myriad ways, and No. 24 Whitworth couldn’t counter them all in UPS’s 89-77 victory Friday night in a men’s Northwest Conference basketball showdown at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The Loggers remained unbeaten in NWC play through five games and improved to 12-2 overall. Whitworth slipped to 11-3 and 3-2 in the conference.
UPS built a 14-point halftime lead and stretched it to as much as 56-39 shortly after the break. The Pirates responded with a 24-9 spurt over the next 6½ minutes to trim their deficit to 65-63 midway through the second half.
Ross Nakamura knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the Whits within 76-73 with 5 minutes left, but UPS scored the game’s next 11 points to put the game away. Seven of the Loggers’ points in that stretch were scored at the free-throw line.
“We could’ve won,” Nakamura said. “I mean, we cut it to two. We had a nice run. … In the first half, we just dug ourselves a hole not shooting well.”
The Pirates won at UPS last year, part of a road sweep that included tonight’s opponent, Pacific Lutheran. Whitworth coach Jim Hayford stopped short of saying the Pirates need to duplicate that feat to get back in the hunt for a conference title, but Nakamura said that may be a necessity.
“I think we do have to sweep them, yeah,” the senior point guard said. “I don’t see too many teams beating UPS this year. I think we definitely have to sweep them.”
“Any year you can have two losses and win this league,” Hayford said. “We reduced our margin for error. They increased theirs.”
Both teams made 30 of 63 attempts from the field, but UPS proved steadier beyond the arc, making 12 of 25 shots compared with the Pirates’ 8-for-23 effort. Austin Boyce and Bryce Levin each made 4 of 6 3-pointers for the Loggers, who entered the game averaging 39 percent on 3s.
“I feel like we’ve got all the pieces,” UPS guard Antwan Williams said. “We’re determined to put it all together.”
Robert Krauel led five UPS players in double figures with 18 points, and five of his team-high 10 rebounds were on the offensive end. Boyce chipped in with 16 points, Jason Foster scored 14, and Levin and Williams added 12 apiece.
“In the first half, I thought we made some good stops, but they’d get the offensive rebound,” Hayford said. “When you get 10 or 11 offensive rebounds, you’re going to shoot 50 percent. By the same token, we didn’t shoot well. … We didn’t rebound like we should have.”
Nate Montgomery paced the Pirates with 22 points and 10 rebounds. David Riley and Calvin Jurich scored 14 and 13, respectively.
Whitworth 47, Puget Sound 43: It was no coincidence Whitworth’s first-half woes mirrored those of the team’s leading scorer, Cassie Pilkinton. Likewise, it was no surprise Pilkinton loomed large when the Pirates staged their comeback.
Held scoreless for the game’s first 35½ minutes, Pilkinton buried a 3-pointer to knot the score at 37 with 4:25 remaining. On the Pirates’ next possession, she converted a three-point play to give Whitworth its first lead of the contest, 40-37.
Claire Ely’s three-point play with 9.5 seconds left pulled the Loggers within 45-43, but Leah Pomante’s two free throws with 5 seconds remaining sealed the Whitworth victory.
The Pirates (9-5, 3-2 NWC) mustered only 18 points in the first half and trailed by five at intermission. UPS led 17-5 midway through the first half.
Liz Horiatis and Kim Bluff scored 10 points apiece for the Whits. Ely paced UPS (8-6, 2-3) with 17.
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