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Kyle Roach helps Whitworth fend off Pacific Lutheran’s upset bid in 71-56 defensive battle

Jan. 19, 2019 Updated Sat., Jan. 19, 2019 at 9:03 p.m.

By Jason Shoot For The Spokesman-Review

Take nothing for granted in conference play.

Sixth-ranked Whitworth found itself in an unexpected dogfight with Pacific Lutheran Saturday night, but senior Kyle Roach’s offensive eruption in the second half helped the Pirates rally for a 71-56 win in a Northwest Conference men’s basketball game at Whitworth Fieldhouse.

PLU suffered a 50-point blowout loss at Whitman one night earlier, but the Lutes didn’t resemble that team against Whitworth. They carried a lead into the locker room at halftime before Roach caught fire with 27 of his game-high 30 points, spurring the Pirates’ comeback.

Luke Worley’s bucket gave PLU a 39-38 advantage with just less than 15 minutes remaining. Whitworth’s Jordan Lester responded with a floater in the lane to put his team ahead, and the Pirates never relinquished the lead again.

Lester’s bucket kicked off a 12-2 run, and Roach knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during the flurry that ended with the Pirates leading 50-41.

Leighton Kingma’s three free throws and Kelton Williams’ layin pulled the Lutes within 50-46, but PLU didn’t draw closer.

Roach said he didn’t start the second half looking to shoot more. It just worked out that way.

“I know I can score more than three points in a half,” Roach said. “It was more about energy. … I got to the basket a few times, and I felt like it opened up the floodgates for me.”

The Pirates’ offense sputtered in the first half, particularly in the game’s opening minutes as PLU built a 9-0 lead. Williams sparked the Lutes with a 3-pointer and a layup to open the flurry.

The Pirates set out to get back in contention, and they grabbed their first lead at 17-16 with Ben Bishop’s layup with 6 1/2 minutes left in the half. The teams traded leads twice more before PLU settled in at halftime with a 30-26 edge.

Whitworth, which had averaged 14 turnovers per game, committed 12 in the first 20 minutes.

The Pirates converted just 9 of 31 shots from the field before the break. The Lutes shot marginally better (11 for 26) to overcome 13 turnovers.

“I wasn’t pleased with how we started the game,” Pirates head coach Matt Logie said. “All of our afflictions were self-inflicted. You have to give PLU credit, though. They came out with a lot of energy and intensity. … One of the undervalued aspects of playing at a place like Whitworth is every time a team comes here, it’s their Super Bowl. We have to match that, and it was a great reminder of that tonight.”

Ben College was the only other player to score in double figures for Whitworth with 14 points, seven less than his season average.

Kingma, PLU’s leading scorer at 16 points a game, was held to two points in the first half and finished with nine on 3-for-9 shooting.

“We did a nice job of defending his strengths,” Logie said.

Williams scored a team-best 15 points for PLU, and Nasseen Gutierrez-Orozco added 13.

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