WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Whitman College took a major step toward retaining the Northwest Conference regular season men's basketball title with a 110-98 win over visiting Whitworth on Tuesday night.
The third-ranked Blues (19-1 overall, 11-0 NWC) moved three games ahead of the 10th-ranked Pirates (16-4, 8-3) in the league standings with five games to play.
Whitworth took an early 6-2 lead after a three-pointer by Jordan Lester two minutes into the game. Whitman responded with a 14-2 run to grab a 16-8 lead and the Blues never trailed again. The Pirates got back within 23-22 on Ben College's three-pointer with 10:55 left in the first before another Whitman spurt led to the Blues' first double-digit lead of the game (34-24). Joey Hewitt's layup extended the advantage to 46-31 and Whitman led 50-36 at halftime.
Darne Duckett's three-pointer eight minutes into the second half gave the Blues a 74-54 lead, their largest of the game. Isaiah Hernandez and Kyle Roach answered with back-to-back three-pointers to show the Pirates still had some life, cutting the deficit to 74-60. However, Trevor Osborne's three with 8:24 to go reinstated an 84-64 lead for Whitman.
Trailing 93-77 with 5:21 to play, Whitman made one final run. The Bucs got within 93-82 on another College three and then Roach drove for a basket that cut the margin to 96-88 before he was fouled with a chance for a three-point play. The free throw did not go in and Whitman scored six straight points, three on free throws by Jack Stewart and a Joey Hewitt three ball, for a 102-88 lead.
After shooting only 44.8% in the first half, Whitworth made 69% (24-35) from the field after halftime. However, the Pirates were never able to slow down Whitman. The Blues made better than 54% in each half and finished 26-30 (86.7%) from the free throw line.
Whitworth also suffered from 20 turnovers against Whitman's pressing defense.
College scored 24 points to lead the Pirates. Roach finished with 17 and Hernandez had 15 points off the bench. Lester totaled 13 and Ben Bishop had 11 for five players in double figures. Jared Christy's eight rebounds was a game-high total.
Butler and Hewitt scored 24 points apiece for Whitman. Stewart added 19 and Duckett scored 15. Butler added six assists, three blocks and a steal.
Whitworth will look to snap its first two-game since February of 2013 when the Pirates host Lewis & Clark College on Saturday at 6:00 pm.