Whitworth did what it could to avoid falling into a foot race with Whitman. But the Pirates could only slow the high-tempo Blues so much.
Trailing by 13 early in the second half, the Pirates erased that deficit and even took a few brief lead. But every time Whitman needed a 3, it seemed Trevor Osborne was there to hit one, and the Blues bested the Pirates for the 11th time in the past 12 games, 89-80 on Tuesday at the Fieldhouse in a Northwest Conference men’s basketball game.
“We just wanted to take away some of their strengths, and we didn’t do a very good job of that tonight,” Whitworth senior Ben College said.
College had 20 points, and junior Isaiah Hernandez scored a career-high 23 on 8-of-17 shooting, but their efforts were outdone by the Blues’ senior trio of Osborne, Andrew Vickers and Robert Colton, who combined for 59 points.
The Blues, who average 101.8 points per game, have been held to fewer than 92 points by three other teams this season.
The Pirates led late in the first half, 34-31, but the Blues scored the last 10 points before half. Osborne sank 3 of 4 3-point attempts in the first three and a half minutes after the break, and Whitman seized a 56-43 lead.
“We had a pretty bad four-minute segment that they hit some daggers on us,” Pirates coach Damion Jablonski said.
The Pirates answered with a 13-0 run, capped by a driving basket by senior Sam Lees.
But eventually the Blues pulled away, taking an eight-point lead with 3 minutes left and never again falling within a possession of the Pirates.
Colton continually gave the Pirates trouble inside. He grabbed nine offensive rebounds, shot 10 of 16 from the field and scored a game-high 25 points.
Osborne added 15 on 5-of-8 shooting – all 3-point attempts – and Vickers added eight rebounds and 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting.
“The bottom line was a few too many 3s and a few too many offensive rebounds, and offensive rebounds probably led to those 3s,” Jablonski said. “Had we limited those things, I thought we did a pretty good job putting ourselves in position to win that game, but we probably had to shoot the ball a little bit better.”
Each team attempted 73 shots: The Blues made 33, the Pirates 31. Whitman grabbed one more rebound (43 to 42) and had one fewer turnover (12 to 13).
The difference was at the free-throw line, where the Blues sank 13 of 16 attempts, and the Pirates made 8 of 9, their second-fewest attempts of the season.
The Blues (12-4, 7-0 NWC) sit atop the conference and have won four straight against the Pirates (12-4, 6-1). Each of them will play Linfield (12-3, 6-0) this weekend. Whitworth gets its shot first on Friday night at the Fieldhouse.
Whitman has won its past 63 games against NWC opponents.
“We need to shore up some things if we want to beat them next time,” College said.
That opportunity will come Feb. 18 in Walla Walla, the second-to-last game of the regular season.
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