SALEM, Ore. - The Blues entered tonight with a good chunk of its offense gone from last season, but you wouldn't have known it. Jaron Kirkley scored a career and game-high 30 points, Darne Duckett added 25 more and the No. 20 Whitman College men's basketball team topped Montclair State with a 114-104 season-opening win on Friday night.
The Blues (1-0) opened the season away from the Sherwood Center for the first time in nine seasons, but it didn't stop Whitman from winning its sixth straight opener. Five Blues scored in double figures including Andrew Vickers' 20-point, seven-rebound night and Nikola Trifunovic's 10 points off the bench. Robert Colton added a game-high 10 rebounds.
Five players scored in double figures for the Red Hawks (0-1) who shot well in the first half but ultimately could not keep pace with Whitman. Akbar Hoffman dropped a team-high 21 points with Eddie Emedoh, Nate Nahirny and Steven Breeman all adding 19 more.
The game started off auspiciously as a Trevor Osborne three pointer and a Kirkley three-point play gave the Blues an early 6-2 lead. The Red Hawks' offense began to click and on the heels of three Nahirny triples reversed the tide and took a 13-11 lead in what was quickly becoming a shootout.
Both teams remained hot from the floor but it was Montclair State who continued to lead as the game reached the midway point of the first half.
In what has become a hallmark of Whitman men's basketball, the Blues turned defense into offense and turned a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead over a 3:11 stretch. Trifunovic caught fire, draining a pair of three pointers and was the beneficiary of a Vickers backcourt steal.
Emedoh's bucket stopped the 10-0 run but did little to stymie Whitman's momentum. Kirkley connected on a pair of jumpers and Michael Gutierrez added a layup in transition and the Blues took a 54-47 lead lead with 2:05 to play. Whitman entered the break up six points.
The second half saw Montclair State cut the lead to three points with 17:40 to play, and keep the deficit in and around 10 points for a good portion of the half. With just over nine minutes to play though, Duckett drilled a three pointer and Vickers converted an and-one three-point play to push the lead to 95-80 with 8:06 to play.
Duckett, Kirkley and Vickers all connected on consecutive possessions inside of four minutes to play as the Blues coasted to the win.
Whitman returns to action for its home opener on Thursday, Nov. 14 against Montclair State at 7:00 p.m.