SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth rallied from a 13-point second half deficit, but visiting Whitman held off the Pirates for a tense 100-98 Northwest Conference men's basketball victory on Tuesday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The 4th-ranked Blues improved to 12-1 overall and 4-0 in the NWC while the 7th-ranked Pirates fell to 11-2, 3-1 in the first of two "Battle of the Whits" contests this season. In what has become one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball, the game came down to a final shot for the third straight game.
Whitworth rebounded a missed free throw with 19 seconds left and worked for the last shot. Isaiah Hernandez could not get a layup to go and a tip out to Ben College for a shot just before the buzzer did not go in, allowing Whitman to escape with the win.
"We were able to get transition off the rebound and we've had good results in transition this season," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "Isaiah got a good look and we got a tip out opportunity. We finished one play short."
Whitworth took several eight point leads in the first ten minutes of the game, the final time at 31-23 on a pair of free throws by Ben College. But foul trouble caught up with the Pirates over the final ten minutes of the opening period, sending Kyle Roach and Jordan Lester to the bench for long stretches. Whitman took advantage and went into halftime with a 52-47 lead. Andrew Vickers led the Blues with 12 first half points while Austin Butler had 11, off-setting a 14-point half for College.
Whitman quickly extended the lead to double digits in the second half. When Darne Duckett hit a three-pointer to put the Blues up 81-68 with 11:17 to go, the game looked like it might get away from the Pirates. But it didn't.
"We have an experienced and mature group that loves to play together," Logie said. "Our guys did a great job playing the full 40 minutes."
The Pirates chipped away and got within 87-85 on Kevin Crosno's three-pointer. After Whitman got back up 94-88 on three free throws from Joey Hewitt, Whitworth took its first lead of the second half (96-95) on a College three with 2:35 to go. Cedric Jacobs-Jones answered with a put-back basket a minute later and Vickers followed with a layup following a Whitworth turnover.
Leading 99-98, Duckett had a chance to ice the game for Whitman with three free throws with 19 seconds left, but he missed two, allowing the Pirates the final opportunity.
College led all players with 28 points, going 8-14 from the field and 9-9 at the free throw line. Roach scored 15 of his 19 points after halftime. Jared Christy posted a double-double with 11 points and 15 rebounds, while Hernandez and Crosno had 13 and 10, respectively, off the bench. Whitworth shot 51.6% (33-64) from the field.
Duckett led Whitman with 19 and Vickers had 18, both off the bench. Butler and Hewitt scored 15 apiece. The Blues shot 47.9% (35-73) from the field, taking advantage of 18 offensive rebounds.
Whitworth will try to bounce back on the road this weekend. The Pirates face tough games at George Fox and Linfield.