Kyle Roach barely showed up on the stat sheet in 20 minutes on the floor Saturday.
In the first half of Whitworth’s 89-77 win over George Fox, the junior guard opened the game with a layup and closed out the half with a 3-pointer after missing four from 3-point range and going 2 for 8 from the field.
But apparently Roach was just warming up.
After a halftime breather, Roach found his rhythm against the George Fox (6-9, 2-4 Northwest Conference) full-court press and put up 27 points for the third-ranked Pirates (13-2, 5-1). He contributed 12 points to a 14-5 run in the opening minutes of the second half, including a 3-pointer that gave Whitworth a 52-40 lead.
For the majority of the half, Roach took his game inside the paint, where a noticeably smaller George Fox struggled to guard him. He found holes left open by the Bruins’ zone defense and drove inside for six baskets in a 6-minute stretch.
“We decided (during halftime), for me at least, to drive off the top and try and create for others,” Roach said. “And if I had an opening in the middle I would take it, which I was able to find a few times.”
Roach stepped outside in the final minutes of the game and hit two more 3-pointers to finish with a career-high 32 points.
“When he gets going, it really infuses everybody with energy,” Pirates head coach Matt Logie said of Roach.
Roach’s jolt of energy helped pull the Pirates out of a scoring lull that squandered a 15-point lead built in the first half.
The Pirates ran up five consecutive 3-pointers – three from junior guard Garrett Hull, followed by back-to-back shots from sophomore guard Ben College – in the first 5 minutes of the game for a 17-4 lead.
Forward Jared Christy used his 6-foot-6 frame to attack inside for a pair of close-range buckets. Guard Sam Lees followed with a three-point play to extend Whitworth’s lead to 15.
Whitworth lost its edge from distance and went on a 4-minute scoring drought late in the second half. The Bruins responded with a 12-0 run that pulled them within three points.
George Fox held on and tied the score at 31 after guard Thomas Rico hit two shots at the line. But the Bruins couldn’t pull ahead, as the Pirates took the lead for good on a 7-0 run that included a long 3-pointer by College.
Roach led five Pirates in double figures, including Lees, who came off the bench and scored 15 on 7-of-11 shooting.
Christy posted a double-double for the Pirates with 10 points and a season-high 17 boards.
Hull finished with 13 points and three steals and College followed with 11.
The Pirates managed to outrebound the Bruins 40-38, fueled mostly by Christy’s relentless attack on the glass. Christy got his hands on the ball for five of Whitworth’s 18 offensive rebounds.
Whitworth forced 24 turnovers and held the Bruins, who led the conference in 3-point percentage (38.9) heading into the week, to 32.1 percent (9 of 28). Rico struggled the most from 3-point range, hitting only 2 of 8 attempts.
“That was one our main points coming in, defending the 3-point line. You know, 1 through 4, they’re all really good shooters,” Roach said. “So we made an emphasis on running them off the line and trying not to let them in the middle of the paint.”
The Pirates head to Salem, Oregon, to take on Willamette at 8 p.m. Friday.
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