SPOKANE, Wash. – Kyle Roach led a balanced attack as 14th-ranked Whitworth opened Northwest Conference play with an 86-69 men's basketball win over visiting Willamette on Friday night.
The Pirates, with four players in double figures and two others with nine points, improved to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the NWC this season.
"I felt like tonight was our first full 40 minutes of Pirate basketball," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "We were sharing the basketball, with the style and intensity we want. Kyle set the tone and opened things up for his teammates."
The Bearcats (0-5, 0-1) opened the game with a 7-1 lead, including a three-pointer by All-NWC forward Jordan Jenkins. Jordan Lester gave Whitworth its first lead of the game (11-9) with a three-pointer and the Pirates extended the lead to 21-14, but Alex Barba drained back-to-back three-pointers to pull Willamette back within 21-20. After Whitworth got a three-pointer by Ben College, the Bucs began to pull away. The Pirates eventually took a 44-33 lead into halftime, making 50% of their shots in the opening 20 minutes while holding Willamette to 37%.
"We played hard defensively and were active around the ball," Logie said. "They shoot well and you have to account for a versatile scorer and playmaker like Jenkins."
The Bearcats were only able to cut the margin below double digits once, early in the second half, when a Jenkins basket made the score 46-38. Roach scored twice and College drained another three to extend Whitworth's lead to 56-41 with 15 minutes to play. The Pirates eventually led by 20 points with just under three minutes to go after Jared Christy's three-pointer.
Roach scored 17 points and dished seven assists. Lester added 12 points, while Garrett Hull came off the bench for 11 and College finished with 10. Christy and Kevin Crosno totaled nine apiece and Christy led all players with ten rebounds. Whitworth finished the game 32-62 (51.6%) from the field, including 8-16 (50%) from three-point range. The Pirates had a 39-32 advantage in rebounds.
Jenkins scored a game-high 20 points for Willamette, while Barba came off the bench for 18. Jonathan Watts had a strong stat line with nine rebounds, eight assists and seven points.
Whitworth will close out the weekend with a game against Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday at 6:00 pm.