Men's Hoops Takes Down UPS In NWC Opener

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Jaron Kirkley led a cast of four starters posting double figures, scoring 21 points on 8-13 shooting to help the Whitman College men's basketball team to an 89-84 win over Puget Sound, Saturday in Northwest Conference season opening action at the Sherwood Center.

Darne Duckett stuffed the stat sheet with 17 points, six rebounds and four steals and nailed a key corner three pointer to stave off a furious late game rally by the Loggers (6-4, 0-1 NWC). Stellan Roberts drilled a three pointer to cap a 15-5 UPS run and give his team an 81-79 lead with 2:52 to play. On the ensuing possession, Kirkley found Duckett in transition who regained the lead for the Blues (6-4, 1-0 NWC), one they would not relinquish.

John Misel keyed the Logger effort off the bench, scoring a game-high 23 points while grabbing nine rebounds. Roberts added 16 points and nine rebounds for a near double double of his own.

The Blues won despite UPS having the better shooting night statistically and outscoring the Whitman bench 51-12. Whitman dominated the paint however with a 60-21 point disparity and had just a little better presence on both ends of the court. 

Nikola Trifunovic scored 19 points on an impressive 8-10 shooting night and Robert Colton was one rebound shy of a double double with 12 points and nine boards.

The early going saw the Blues spread the wealth as Colton, Duckett, Trifunovic and Andrew Vickers all hit from the floor. Vickers' dunk and three pointer helped his team build an 11-6 lead with 15:47 to play in the half. 

Whitman took control midway through and built a nine-point lead off baskets from Duckett and Kirkley. The run continued as Trifunovic followed up his layup with a three pointer to give Whitman a 32-16 lead with 8:33 to play. UPS steadily closed the gap and Whitman found itself settling for a three-point lead heading into the break. 

The second half saw Tyrese Yussuf-Willis tie up the game with his bucket in the paint. Whitman responded though and reeled off nine straight points to retake control of the game. The Blues kept UPS at arms length until a late - but unsuccessful - run turned the game into a close contest down the stretch.

Whitman is back in action on Saturday night for more Northwest Conference action at the Sherwood Center. Tipoff against Pacific Lutheran is set for 6:00 p.m.