January 17, 2012

Whitman Rallies to Upset 9th-ranked Whitworth

SPOKANE, Wash. – David Michaels scored nine of his team-high 20 points during a decisive 9-0 run in the second half to lead visiting Whitman to a 77-66 win at 9th-ranked Whitworth in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Tuesday night.

The Missionaries, who earned their first win over the Pirates in Spokane since January of 1986, improved to 12-4 overall and 5-2 in the NWC and within a game of Whitworth (13-3, 6-1) in the league standings.  The Pirates dropped their first NWC home game since Feb. of 2009, ending a conference home winning streak of 22 in a row.

Michaels helped Whitman overcome a ten point first half deficit by scoring 15 of his 20 points after halftime.  The key stretch came when he made a pair of three-pointers and hit three free throws to personally turn a 58-58 tie into a 67-58 Whitman lead with 3:54 to play.  Whitworth was never able to get the margin below six points the rest of the way.

The Missionaries came into the game as the NWC's lowest ranked team in free throw percentage (62.3%) but greatly helped their cause by making 27-34 attempts (79.4%) from the line against the Pirates.

Wade Gebbers turned a steal and fast break layup into a 30-20 Whitworth lead with 4:17 to play in the first half.  It was the Pirates' largest lead of the game.  Whitman was able to pull within 34-28 at halftime, however.

The tide changed in the second half when Whitworth star center Felix Friedt quickly picked up his third and fourth fouls.  Friedt would end up playing only four total minutes in the second half after he fouled out of the game with 3:32 to play.  He was limited to nine points and five rebounds, half of both of his season averages.

Whitman took advantage of Friedt's absence for most of the second half to turn the halftime deficit into a 45-39 advantage.  Missionary post Ben Eisenhardt scored five points during that run.  The Missionaries stretched the lead to 50-43 following a lay-up and steal from Drew Raher.

Whitworth's three-point shooting slump, which began with weekend wins against Pacific and Linfield, continued on Tuesday against Whitman as the team made only 5-27 (18.5%) from long range.  But the Pirates came back to tie the game by making free throws.  Gebbers hit a three and went 4-4 from the line to rally the Bucs back into a 58-58 tie with 5:27 to play.

But that was when Michaels took over the game for Whitman over the next two minutes.

Gebbers scored a career-high 26 points to lead Whitworth.  He also had three assists and five steals.  Idris Lasisi scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, while Mack Larkin returned from four games away to score 12 points. 

Michaels hit 12-15 from the free throw line for most of his 20 points.  He also had seven rebounds and three assists.  LuQuam Thompson added 16 points and Eisenhardt had 11 points off of the bench.

Both teams will hit the road to take on Willamette University in Salem, Oregon this weekend.  Whitworth will play the Bearcats on Friday while Whitman visits Willamette on Saturday.

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