This was no time for complacency.
Three days before a date with the No. 1 team in the land, Whitworth could have looked past Pacific on Saturday night.
Instead, the Pirates (12-1, 4-0) kept up the intensity all night to take an 83-71 Northwest Conference men’s basketball win over the Boxers at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Though leading by double digits most of the night, the eighth-ranked Pirates never got too comfortable, and that was the idea.
“Our intensity dipped a little bit early in the second half,” guard Kyle Roach said after the Pirates took a 16-point halftime lead. “But our bench and our coaches do a great job of keeping the guys on the floor pumped up.”
Roach set the tone early in the game, hitting a trio of 3-point shots to give the Pirates an early lead. After launching the third one – a 25-footer that hit nothing but net – Roach flashed a smile at the Pirates bench.
On the next trip downcourt, Roach was more ambitious, heaving the ball from almost 30 feet. This one glanced off the iron but into the hands of Ben College, who scored on a layin to give Whitworth its first double-digit lead, 16-5.
“I’ve been getting a lot of shots lately,” said Roach, who finished with a game-high 25 points while going 4 for 7 from long range. “I didn’t start the season as well as I would have liked, but it’s getting better.”
The Pirates hit their stride late in the first half and pulled away to a 50-34 lead at the break.
The lead was still 16 with less than 10 minutes left, but Pacific closed to within eight points on three occasions late in the game.
The last one came with just more than 2 minutes left, but Roach and Isaiah Hernandez each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to clinch the game.
Only then could the Pirates look ahead to Tuesday’s game at top-ranked Whitman, which held off Lewis & Clark 79-72 on Saturday to improve to 13-0.
“It’s a heck of an opportunity,” coach Matt Logie said. “This is why you work as hard as you do and this is why our guys come to Whitworth – to play in a game like this.”
Against Pacific, Whitworth did most of its damage inside, finishing drives and making 26 of 31 foul shots. Meanwhile, Pacific didn’t get to the line until early in the second half, finishing 15 for 19.
Pacific (8-5, 2-2) had four players in double figures, led by Brevin Brown with 17.
The Boxers shot just 39 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range.
“That was one of our goals, to hold them to under 40-percent shooting, and we did it,” Logie said.
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