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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Second-ranked Whitworth men storm back in second half to beat Linfield

The No. 2 Whitworth men struggled to get going for a second consecutive night Saturday, but the Pirates overcame a halftime deficit and toppled Linfield late for a 63-49 victory.

Playing its fourth game without star guard Kenny Love, Whitworth turned to point guard Matt Staudacher, who hit 5 of 7 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 19 points.

The Pirates (7-0, 2-0 NWC) needed every bucket in a game that had five ties and 10 lead changes.

“Matt Staudacher turned the tide for us with his shooting from the perimeter,” Pirates head coach Matt Logie said. “But our defense was the story in the second half. To hold a team to 20 percent shooting, you will have a chance to win every game you are in.”

Whitworth struggled to find anything that would consistently work on offense in the first half as the Pirates only hit 9 of 27 shots.

George Valle started the game with a layup, but the lead was fleeting as the teams ended up trading the lead seven times in the first half.

The Wildcats led by as many as seven points, but the Pirates always reeled them in to recapture the lead.

The Pirates got seven points apiece from freshman guard Kyle Roach and Christian Jurlina, who didn’t score his first points until 15 minutes into the first half after scoring 27 points Friday night against Lewis & Clark.

“I think (Jurlina) felt like he scored enough in the first half (Friday),” Logie said. “He wanted some of the other guys to get some points.”

But it was the Wildcats who did most of the scoring. They got eight points each from Kyle Maloof and Mason Rodby.

The biggest points came from Vince Romeo. With the first-half clock winding down, he drove for a contested layup which missed. But Romeo drew the foul with .3 seconds left on the clock.

He hit his only two shots of the half, both free throws, to give Linfield the 27-26 lead at halftime.

The teams kept trading the lead to start the second half.

While 6-foot-10 center Drew Sears didn’t score, he had two huge blocks when the game was tied at 32. Derek Isaak hit a 3-pointer that gave Whitworth the lead for good with about 15 minutes left to play.

Jurlina also got hot in the second half to help Whitworth pull away. He finished with 15 points and a team-leading seven rebounds.

Valle, who struggled with his shooting on Friday night, hit 5 of 9 shots from the floor to finish with 14 points and six rebounds.

“It was nice to be able to hit my first shot,” Valle said. “It gets my confidence going for the rest of the game.”

Both Valle and Logie credited Linfield (4-3, 0-2) for forcing Whitworth into poor shots.

“They took us out of our comfort zone,” Valle said. “We weren’t able to run our offense as effectively as we want. But in the second half, we really locked them down defensively.”

For the game, Linfield shot 30.4 percent from the floor, including only 6 of 30 shots in the second half. Whitworth won the battle of the boards 41-30 and shot 42.9 percent from the floor for the game.

Valle credited Staudacher for leading the team while Love sits with an injured eye. Love, the reigning conference player of the year, has missed four games after getting poked in the eye during practice.

“Matt is everything you want in your point guard,” Valle said. “He calms us all down and he steps up and makes his shots.”