SPOKANE, Wash. – Dustin McConnell's three-pointer with 41 seconds left helped rally 10th-ranked Whitworth to a 65-61 win over visiting Linfield in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Trailing 58-54 with less than five minutes to play it looked like the Pirates (13-2 overall, 6-0 NWC) would suffer a major upset at the hands of the determined Wildcats (3-12, 1-5). Instead Whitworth holds on to a two-game lead in the NWC standings.
Linfield forced the Pirates into their largest halftime deficit of the season when the Wildcats took a 29-22 lead into the break. Linfield's defense held Whitworth to only 38.1% shooting from the floor in the half, including a freezing 17% (2-12) from three-point range. After Felix Freidt's three-point play gave the Bucs a 22-20 lead with 3:25 to play in the half, Linfield closed the period on a 9-0 run. David Lee scored three baskets and Andrew Batiuk drained a three during the spurt. Lee was 5-5 from the floor for 10 points in the first half.
Lee scored almost three minutes into the second period to give the Wildcats their largest lead of the game (36-27). But Whitworth scored the next nine points to tie the game 36-36 after Wade Gebbers converted a three-point play. That sequence set a tone for the rest of the half as every time Whitworth worked back into a tie, Linfield would answer.
Batiuk's jumper gave the Wildcats a 43-38 lead with 11:20 to play, but Idris Lasisi hit a three for Whitworth from the top of the circle to tie the game 47-47 three minutes later. Back-to-back threes by Batiuk gave Linfield a 53-47 advantage before Lasisi got the Pirates back within 53-52 with a pair of free throws. Lee converted a three-point play with 4:40 to go to give Linfield that 58-54 lead.
Whitworth would outscore the Wildcats 11-3 the rest of the way. The final run began with a Lasisi three-pointer that got the Bucs within one and Gebbers' lay up put Whitworth ahead by one. The teams traded baskets and Batiuk's final shot with 57 seconds to play gave Linfield its last lead (61-60). That's when McConnell hit his three from the left wing on the Pirates' next possession to put Whitworth ahead to stay. As Linfield worked for a potential game-tying shot, Lasisi came up with the biggest steal of the game with 16 seconds left and Colton McCargar calmly made two free throws with :13 to play to clinch the win.
Lasisi led Whitworth with 23 points as the Pirates improved their shooting to 46% (13-28) in the second half, 40% (6-15) from beyond the arc. Gebbers added 11 points and Friedt posted his sixth straight double-double with 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds. McConnell finished with 10 points and four assists, while McCargar scored nine.
Batiuk led Linfield with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. Lee finished 8-10 from the floor and scored 17 points. Zach Anderson totaled 11 points and seven boards. Dakotah Pine dished four assists.
Whitworth, winners of 41 of its last 42 NWC games, will host second-place Whitman (11-4, 4-2) on Tuesday night.