SPOKANE, Wash. – Trailing by seven points with five minutes left, Whitworth rallied for a hard-fought 77-75 win over visiting Lewis & Clark in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The 10th-ranked Pirates (17-4 overall, 9-3 NWC) avoided their first three-game losing skid since 2008 by holding the Pioneers (7-14, 3-9) to 1-10 from the field over the final five minutes of the game.
Lewis & Clark, facing its fourth straight road game but looking for its third road victory in that stretch, led by as many as 11 points in the first half and for more than 31 minutes in the game. Ryan Cibull's desperation three-quarter court shot at the buzzer hit the rim.
"Tonight we had a great opportunity to jump start the home stretch of our season," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "All seven of my previous NCAA tournament teams here had gritty games like this where things were not going our way and we just had to scratch and find a way to win. I'm happy we did that."
It took a while. Lewis & Clark used two big first half runs to open a double-digit lead. First, the visitors used a 16-6 spurt to turn a 6-2 deficit into a 18-12 lead by making their first eight field goals of the game. After Whitworth got within 22-20 on Jared Christy's layup, L&C went on a 9-0 burst, capped by Daelon Floyd's three-pointer, for a 31-20 advantage.
Meanwhile Whitworth was struggling to shoot the ball, starting 2-7 at the free throw line and 0-9 from three-point range. When Kyle Roach finally hit the Pirates' first three-pointer with under a minute to play in the first half, he'd cut the Bucs' deficit to 37-34 at halftime.
Whitworth fought back to tie the game three times in the second half, the final time at 55-55 on Roach's layup with 8:43 to go. The Pioneers went on an 11-4 run, including Cibull's jumper with 5:02 to play, to grab a 62-55 lead. From that point Whitworth held Lewis & Clark to 1-10 shooting from the floor, allowing the hosts one final, game-winning rally.
Ben College's three-pointer tied the game 68-68 with 2:50 to play and Isaiah Hernandez followed with a pair of free throws for the Pirates' first lead since the early minutes. Roach's jumper with 1:44 to go gave Whitworth a 72-68 lead before Mak Hutson drilled a three to get L&C within one. Whitworth made 5-8 from the free throw line in the final minute to keep the Pioneers at-bay.
"We played with greater intensity," Logie said of the final five minutes. "We defended with urgency down the stretch and that makes good things happen. We got some transition opportunities and it led to better execution on offense."
All five Whitworth starters reached double figures, led by College's 20 points and 16 from Roach. Christy added 14 and Hernandez totaled 13. Ben Bishop finished with ten.
Lewis & Clark outshot Whitworth 47.7% - 43.3% and the Pioneers finished with a 44-38 edge in rebounds. However, the Pirates forced 16 L&C turnovers while committing only nine of their own.
Hutson led the Pioneers with 16 points, Cibull had a dozen and Floyd scored 11.
Leading third place Linfield by one game in the NWC men's basketball standings, Whitworth will host the Wildcats next Friday at 8:00 pm in its next game.