NEWBERG, Ore. – Whitworth University point guard Wade Gebbers poured in 24 points, 21 in the second half, and the 11th-ranked Pirates nailed 15 three-point baskets to pull away from the George Fox University Bruins in the second half for an 85-66 Northwest Conference men's basketball win Friday night here at the Wheeler Sports Center's Miller Gym.
George Fox saw its five-game winning streak, the Bruins' longest in six years, come to an end as they fell to 9-9 overall and 6-3 in the NWC, missing a chance to move into a tie with Whitworth for the top spot in the league. The Bruins dropped into a four-way deadlock for second place in the standings with Whitman College, Pacific Lutheran University, and the University of Puget Sound, with Lewis & Clark College only a game behind that quartet. Whitworth improved to 15-3 overall and 8-1 in the league.
The first half was tight throughout with six ties, six lead changes, and neither team holding more than a four-point lead. Whitworth scored first on a three-pointer by Dustin McConnell and never trailed through the first 10 minutes, building the largest lead of the half at 11-7 on a layup by McConnell with 11:34 to go. George Fox took its first lead of 14-13 on a Cam Rier three with 9:30 left, and upped it to 16-13 on a Rier fast-break layup 24 seconds later.
Back-to-back threes by Colton McCargar and Jack Loofburrow enabled the Pirates to regain the advantage with 7:52 left, and the game seesawed back and forth the remainder of the half. Jon Adrian's layup with 1:21 to go forged the last tie at 25-25, but Michael Taylor gave Whitworth a 27-25 halftime lead with a layup with 34 seconds left.
Two layups by the Bruins' Sean Atkins around a Felix Friedt free throw for the Pirates made it 29-28 Bruins 100 seconds into the second half, and then Gebbers went to work. Over the next seven minutes, he scored four goals, three of them threes, and hit 5-5 from the line for 16 points as the Pirates built a 49-38 lead with 11:43 to play. Another trey by Loofburrow extended the margin to 14 at 52-38 with 11:10 remaining.
The Bruins cut the lead down to 10 at 57-47 on a pair of Atkins free throws with 8:20 left, but a 20-6 run over the next four minutes featuring another three by Gebbers and two by Idris Lasisi carried the Pirates to an insurmountable 77-53 advantage with 4:15 to go. The lead eventually reached 27 on a trey by Austin Ehlo that made it 83-56 with 1:40 left before the Bruins closed the game with a 10-2 outburst that included a pair of threes by Cole Ramey.
The Bruins, who were playing without No. 2 scorer A.J. Grant, who is out for the weekend with a possible concussion, shot .469 (23-49) from the field for the game, including .438 (7-16) from beyond the arc, but were no match for the Pirates' accuracy, particularly in the second stanza. Whitworth shot .621 (18-29) in the second half and .569 (29-51) for the game, and on three-pointers were 11-16 (.688) in the second half and .536 (15-28) overall. Already No. 2 in the nation in free throw percentage at .797, the Pirates improved on that mark by hitting 12-14 (.857) from the stripe as well.
Atkins and Anthony Sanchez led the Bruins with 14 points apiece, and Spencer Bolte scored 10 with a team-high five rebounds off the bench. Mike Taylor handed out four assists, but the Bruins' leading scorer at 15.6 points a game was limited to only three points.
In addition to Gebbers' big night for the Pirates, Lasisi scored 15 points and Friedt had a double-double of 14 points and 11 boards. Gebbers also passed out five assists.
NEXT: George Fox hosts Whitman and Whitworth goes to Lewis & Clark Saturday, with both games tipping off at 6:00 p.m. The men's games will be preceded by NWC women's games at 4:00 p.m. The start times have been moved up two hours for all four games to give the eastern Washington schools an earlier start on their return trips.