SALEM, Ore. – Kyle Roach's 28 points led 8th-ranked Whitworth to a 91-79 Northwest Conference men's basketball win at Willamette on Saturday night in the league-opener for the defending champion Pirates.
All five Whitworth starters scored in double figures as the Pirates (4-0 overall, 1-0 NWC) won their 18th in a row over the Bearcats (1-6, 0-2) and 14th straight at Willamette's Cone Field House.
Roach tied his career-high for points in a game as all five Whitworth starters reached double figures in the victory. Roach also led the Pirates with seven rebounds.
Whitworth never trailed, jumping out to a 16-4 lead on Ben Bishop's layup six minutes into the game. The Pirates took their largest lead when Kenny Love's three-pointer increased the margin to 40-18 with five minutes to go in the first half. Whitworth eventually led 50-32 at halftime.
Willamette began to chip away in the second half, getting within 59-49 on Dylan Critchfield's basket with 14:28 left. The Bucs stretched the lead back to 69-53 on a pair of Roach free throws before the Bearcats made one final surge. Willamette used a 17-6 run to get to within 75-70 with just over five minutes to play. Nico Troplent hit back to back three-pointers during the run.
But Christian Jurlina answered with consecutive baskets for Whitworth and Roach's basket with 2:19 to go stretched the lead back to double figures (84-73).
Willamette struggled to stop Roach's strong drives to the basket and he got to the free throw line 18 times, making 15. He finished 6-11 from the floor and tied the point total he originally set in a win over Texas Lutheran on November 25th.
Jurlina finished with a season-high 22 points, Love chipped in 13, and Derek Isaak and Drew Sears each scored ten. Whitworth finished 26-51 (51%) from the floor, 6-16 (37.5%) from three-point range. The Bucs went 33-40 (82.5%) from the free throw line.
Johnny Verduin came off of the bench for 23 points to lead Willamette, while Conin Oishi added 12 points, also off of the bench. Troplent finished with ten points. Willamette finished 30-62 (48.4%) from the floor, 4-10 (40%) from beyond the arc. The Bearcats made 15-16 (93.8%) from the free throw line.
Whitworth will head to 5th-ranked Whitman (4-0) on Tuesday night in a top-ten match-up of unbeaten Northwest Conference rivals.