Lasisi's Shot Lifts Whitworth Over Northwestern

Felix Friedt led all players with 26 points and 12 rebounds (photo by Jeff Ferguson)
Felix Friedt led all players with 26 points and 12 rebounds (photo by Jeff Ferguson)

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Idris Lasisi nailed a three-pointer with 1.3 seconds left to lift 8th-ranked Whitworth University to a 78-76 win over visiting Northwestern College in a non-conference men's basketball game on Sunday afternoon at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

Lasisi's big shot and Felix Friedt's big night helped the Pirates (7-1) overcome a week spent working on final exams and a blistering shooting night by the Eagles. 

Northwestern (5-6), from St. Paul, Minnesota, made 14 of 21 (67%) from three-point range, including two by Ethan Benton in the final minute of the game that nearly lifted his team to an upset win.

Northwestern used its hit shooting in the first half to come back from an early 9-2 deficit and build a ten-point lead (32-22) on a trey by Wade Chitwood.  The Eagles made 6-8 (75%) from long range in the first half and were 15-24 (62.5%) overall from beyond the arc.  But Whitworth made a run at the end of the first half to go ahead 35-34 on a pair of free throws by Friedt.  Chitwood answered with a jumper and Northwestern took a 36-35 lead into the locker rooms.

Pirate forward Mack Larkin sparked a Whitworth run to start the second half when he hit a pair of three-pointers and scored 10 of the Bucs' first 12 points out of halftime.  When Wade Gebbers hit a three-pointer just over three minutes into the half Whitworth had taken its largest lead of the game (50-40).  But Ethan Benton answered with a jumper and Tom Gisler followed with a three-pointer and Northwestern was right back in the game.

Idris Lasisi hit the game-winning three-pointer with 1.3 seconds to play in the game.

 In fact the Eagles not only withstood Whitworth's initial run of the second half, but used their own run late in the game to open a 66-59 lead with only 6:40 to play following a three-pointer by Benton, the first of three he would make down the stretch.  However the Eagles had no answer for the physical presence of the 6'-8" Friedt, who converted a three-point play that sparked a 15-4 Whitworth run over the next five minutes.  When Friedt sank a pair of free throws with 1:01 to play the Pirates had a 74-70 lead.

But Benton hit the first of two huge three-pointers in the final minute of play to pull the Eagles within one point.  After Lasisi made one of two free throws with 21 seconds left, Benton drained another long three over Friedt with 7.7 seconds to go.

Following a timeout Gebbers quickly got the ball up court and found Lasisi open in the right corner where he made the winning shot with 1.3 seconds to play.  A last-ditch attempt for Northwestern from beyond half court was no good and Whitworth had escaped what would have been a second straight loss at home.

Friedt posted 26 points and 12 rebounds for Whitworth to lead all players in both categories.  He was 7-10 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line.  Gebbers made 4-6 from three-point range and finished with 16 points and four assists.  Lasisi had 15 points, while Larkin scored 13 of his 14 points after halftime. 

Benton scored 15 of his 17 points after halftime to lead the Eagles.  He had a perfect night, making all seven of his field goal attempts and all three of his three-point tries.  Chitwood scored 15 points and dished eight assists, while Lance Westberg came off of the bench for 15 points and a team-high six rebounds.

Coming Up:  Whitworth will head to San Antonio, Texas for the Trinity National Invitational tournament next week.  The Pirates will take on 13th-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater on Wednesday before playing Southwestern (Texas) on Thursday.

Notes: Friedt's total points and rebounds were both season-highs.  His previous season highs were 24 points against Chapman and 10 rebounds against Lewis & Clark.  Larkin's 14 points surpassed his previous career high of eight in the win over Chapman earlier this season.  This was the first-ever meeting between Whitworth and Northwestern, and only the second game ever for the Pirates against a member of the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC).  Northwestern is the defending UMAC champions and the Eagles have won 9 of the last 11 league titles.