BELTON, Texas – Felix Friedt powered in a career-high 35 points to lead 7th-ranked Whitworth to a 90-79 win over McMurry in the first round of NCAA Division III men's basketball tournament on Friday evening at the Mayborn Center on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Friedt made 9-16 from the floor and 16-17 from the free throw line to help the Pirates improve to 25-3 overall. The War Hawks end the season 20-9.
Friedt scored 16 of his points in the opening half to lead Whitworth to a 41-37 lead at halftime. Jack Loofburrow's three-pointer gave Whitworth a 14-9 lead just over five minutes into the game, but McMurry came back to take an 18-16 lead on a putback basket by Alfred Perez. Loorburrow answered with his second three of the half to put the Pirates back up by one point. Steven Jones hit his first basket of the game for the War Hawks to give McMurry its final lead of the game 20-19. Friedt's three-point play gave Whitworth a lead it would never give up. Wade Gebbers hit a shot to open the Pirates' lead to 29-22 and the Bucs still led 39-32 before McMurry closed to within four at the break. Whitworth made 57% (16-28) of its shots in the half, but committed 11 turnovers against fierce pressure on the perimeter by the War Hawks.
The second half was a combination of Whitworth surges and McMurry responses. Colton McCargar's three gave the Pirates their largest lead (51-43) to that point of the game and a free throw by Idris Lasisi extended the advantage to ten points (55-45) with over five minutes gone in the half. But Bryce Hill made the first three-pointer of the game for the War Hawks to pull his team back within 55-50 90 seconds later.
Wade Gebbers hit an open three to give the Bucs a 63-52 lead, but by the time Jones scored a short jumper McMurry had come back to within 69-65 with just under six minutes left. Friedt's basket extended the lead back to 76-67 but one more time the War Hawks got the lead back to four (78-74) on a three-point play with 2:34 to go.
But Whitworth is the second-best free throw shooting team in all of NCAA Division III for a reason and the Pirates made 8-10 over the final two and a half minutes to keep the War Hawks at bay. The Pirates made 50% (12-24) of their shots in the second half and finished the game 28-34 (82.4%) from the free throw line.
Whitworth outrebounded the best rebounding team in NCAA Division III (by rebound margin) 41-38, however the War Hawks had a 22-9 edge in offensive rebounds that led to several second-chance points.
Whitworth got 15 points and eight rebounds from Idris Lasisi, while Wade Gebbers scored 11 points. Dustin McConnell led the team with four assists.
Perez came off of the bench for 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead McMurry. Jones hit his season average with 17 points, but only had three rebounds. Jaden Isler scored ten and dished five assists.
Whitworth will play either 10th-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor or Trinity in the second round of the tournament at 7:00 pm (CST) on Saturday night.