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Whitworth holds off Linfield 87-81 for second NWC win

A losing conference record can be frustrating, especially to a team that is undefeated in nonconference play.

The Whitworth Pirates have only fallen twice this year, and both losses just happen to be to members of of the Northwest Conference. Whitworth lost to Whitman on Dec. 6 and fell again to Pacific (Oregon) on Friday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. That loss snapped a six-game winning streak, with five of those games being on the road.

“We’ve played two really good teams and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said. But on Saturday, “we took a step in the right direction.”

Whitworth learned just enough from those losses to bounce back on Saturday night and beat the Linfield Wildcats 87-81. Saturday’s showing gave the Bucs their second feat in the NWC and their first win on their home court.

That 2-2 record isn’t exactly what the Bucs had hoped for heading into January’s full schedule of conference showings, but there’s still plenty of season left.

“Obviously we’re not where we want to be at, but I think we just got to keep our head down and keep grinding,” Freshman guard Ben College said. “I have confidence in us. I think we got punched in the face early and I think we’re ready to get back up and fight for the rest of the month.”

Their tying record on Saturday didn’t come easily against the Wildcats (7-6, 1-3) at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

The Bucs traded the lead with Linfield 11 times in the first half as Whitworth struggled to dominate defensively.

Linfield matched the Bucs in rebounds (15) during the first and Whitworth could only hold the Wildcats to 48 percent (12 of 25) from the field. The Bucs barely topped Linfield in makes, hitting half of their field-goal attempts (14 of 28).

The Wildcats sunk a 3-pointer to push their lead to five points, 11-6, in the first four minutes of the game, but Whitworth stayed close behind. Senior guard Derek Isaak answered with a quick toss from 3-point range before the Wildcats came back with a 2-point shot.

College, who scored all ten of his points in the first half, came off the bench and hit another 3 for Whitworth to pull the Bucs within one point, 13-12.

Whitworth and Linfield put up four more points each as they traded the one-point lead for two more minutes. College’s couple of makes at the free throw line and layup gave the Bucs a 20-17 lead with 8:50 remaining. The Bucs lost the lead again, but College threw in his final 3-pointer off a pass from senior guard Kenny Love to put the Bucs on top again, 30-29, with 3 minutes left until halftime.

“I’ve got to give all the credit to me teammates, finding me the open spaces and having the confidence in me to knock down shots tonight,” College said.

The Pirates trailed two more times in the beginning of the second half before Love put up back-to-back 3s in less than a minute to give Whitworth the lead for good.

Five players scored in double figures for the Pirates on Saturday. Love led the Pirates with 17 points and sophomore Kyle Roach had 12 points. Senior forward Christian Jurlina followed with 16 points and was perfect at the foul line (4 for 4). Sophomore Ben Bishop grabbed 10 points and 6 rebounds in place of senior Drew Sears after Sears rolled his ankle on the court Friday night.

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