SPOKANE, Wash. – Unbeaten Whitman College took a major step toward its first Northwest Conference men's basketball regular season championship since 1987 by defeating Whitworth University 91-75 on the road on Tuesday night.
The 2nd-ranked Blues remained the only unbeaten NCAA Division III men's basketball team this season and improved to 18-0 overall and 9-0 in the NWC. The 6th-ranked Pirates fell to 15-3, 6-3.
Whitman never trailed, jumping out to an 8-0 lead four minutes into the game. The Blues stretched their lead to 20-7 and 26-11 before the Pirates finally started to get going. Whitworth was able to cut the margin to 27-22 on a three-pointer by Kyle Roach, but the Pirates could not sustain the momentum. Joey Hewitt's three-pointer gave the Blues another double-digit lead (36-26) and Whitman took a 40-26 lead into halftime when Tim Howell drained a three-pointer right before the buzzer.
The Blues shot 50% from three-point range (6-12) in the decisive first half and Howell scored 13 of his game-high 29 points. But Whitman created its lead thanks to the defense, forcing 12 first half turnovers out of the Pirates and holding Whitworth to only 29% shooting (8-28) from the field and 20% (2-10) from three-point range.
Whitworth never got closer than that halftime margin in the second half as Whitman was able to extend its lead to as many as 22 points (77-55) with just over six minutes to play. Every time the Pirates appeared to be making a run, the Blues would stop the momentum by making a big shot of their own.
"We just got off to such a terrible start in those first eight minutes of the game, again," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie, referencing the Pirates' early season loss at Whitman in December. "We missed good opportunities to score early and Whitman was able to control the game from that point forward."
The Blues finished the game 50% from both the field overall (31-62) and from three-point range (10-20). In addition to Howell's big night, Jase Harrison came off of the bench for 15 points and Austin Butler totaled 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Hewitt finished with a dozen points.
Whitworth improved its shooting in the second half (15-30), but it was not enough to overcome the deficit. The Pirates finished the game 23-58 (39.7%) from the floor. Roach led Whitworth with 17 points, while Kenny Love finished with 12 points and four assists. Ben College had 11 off of the bench and Drew Sears scored ten.
One area in which the Pirates excelled in the game was at the free throw line. The Bucs made 24-25 (96%).
Whitworth will look to rebound on Friday night when the Pirates host Willamette University at 8:00 pm.