PARKLAND - Unbeaten Whitworth made a claim to the No. 1 national ranking in Division III men's basketball on Saturday night in Olson Auditorium with an 85-59 Northwest Conference victory over the host Pacific Lutheran Lutes.
In winning their 32nd consecutive conference game, the Pirates improved to 21-0 overall and 12-0 in the NWC. They had entered the game ranked No. 2 in the D3hoops.com national poll, but No. 1 Wooster was defeated by Wabash on Saturday, leaving the door open to Whitworth's probable rise to the top spot in the national poll.
With the loss, Pacific Lutheran is now 12-8 overall and 7-5 in the conference standings.
Junior forward Jack Loofburrow scored 23 of his game-high 31 points in the second half to pace the Pirates to the victory. Loofburrow knocked down a total of eight three-point shots, six in the second half, and some from way beyond the arc. During one stretch in the second half he scored 11 straight points and 17 of his team's 20 points when the Pirates increased their lead from 61-41 to 81-55 with 3:39 left in the contest. He came out of the game shortly thereafter.
Loofburrow was 8-for-12 from beyond the arc and 11-for-15 overall, and he also tied David Riley for team-high rebounding honors with seven. Riley, a 6-5 all-conference senior forward, poured in 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field. Mike Taylor, the Pirates' leading scorer, added 11 points and five assists for the winner, who also got 14 points from 6-8 junior post Felix Friedt.
Victor Bull had a strong game for the Lutes, recording a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Bull, a 6-7 senior post, pounded away inside, grabbing four offensive boards against the taller Pirates, and he also stepped outside to hit a couple of medium-range jumpers. Curtis Trondsen was the only other PLU player in double figures, scoring all 13 of his points in the second half. Both Trondsen and Andrew Earnest, who finished with nine points, drilled a trio of three-point shots.
Whitworth quickly took a 15-6 lead about six minutes into the game, with Loofburrow hitting a pair of three-point shots. The Lutes whittled their deficit to five points, 21-16, on a three-ball by Earnest halfway through the opening half. The Pirates replied with nine unanswered points and the game was never closer than 14 points the rest of the way.
The visitors shot 53 percent from the field (30-for-57), including 46 percent (11-for-24) from beyond the three-point line. The Lutes, meanwhile, made 37 percent overall (21-for-57) and also from long range (7-for-19). The rebounding battle was even at 34 apiece, and both teams took care of the basketball, Whitworth committing just five turnovers and the Lutes only nine.
Pacific Lutheran returns to action at 8 p.m. Tuesday when it travels across town to take on the Puget Sound Loggers.
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