SPOKANE, Wash. – With a 98-63 win over visiting Pacific University, third-ranked Whitworth clinched at least a share of the 2013 Northwest Conference men's basketball championship on Saturday night at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The Pirates improved to 20-1 overall and 12-0 in the NWC with their 20th consecutive victory. The Boxers fell to 11-9 and 5-6 and their hopes for a spot in the upcoming NWC tournament now rest on a late-season winning streak.
Whitworth took it to Pacific from the opening tip. Mack Larkin opened the game with a three-pointer and by the time George Valle and Wade Gebbers hit back to back threes the Pirates had taken a 21-10 lead six minutes into the game. Colin Wester's layup briefly cut the margin to single digits for the Boxers, but Whitworth answered with a 15-0 run to open up a 36-12 advantage with just under ten minutes to play in the half. The Pirates, who blistered the nets with 74% (23-31) shooting in the first half, would never lead by less than 20 points over the final 30 minutes of the game. The Bucs took a 58-29 lead to the locker rooms after Dustin McConnell hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer.
"Our guys executed our defensive game play to a T," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie. "That created transition offensive opportunities and kept us focused on the offensive end."
Whitworth quickly stretched the lead to more than 30 points early in the second half. Hank Aldous hit a three-pointer to make it 69-33 just over five minutes into the period. Pacific made a brief run to cut the lead to 71-46 on a three-pointer by Andrew Beatty. But the Pirates went back up 77-46 following McConnell's three-point play. Both teams played deep into their benches for much of the final ten minutes of the game.
McConnell finished with a game-high 21 points to lead the Pirates. Valle added 15 points and seven rebounds while Colton McCargar scored 14 points off of the bench. McConnell and McCargar combined to make 14 of their 16 shots from the floor. Whitworth finished the game with a 62% (36-58) field goal percentage.
"Dustin and Colton were so efficient shooting the ball," Logie said. "George was really effective inside and outside."
Marc Eppinger had 15 points off of the bench for the Boxers. Wester finished with 13 points, while Beatty and Charles Mosley each scored 11 points. Mosley led his team with seven rebounds, five on the offensive end.
Whitworth can clinch the outright NWC crown and the number one seed in the conference tournament with one more win. The Pirates will get their first chance on Tuesday night at Whitman College.
This win also marked the third time in the last four years that Whitworth has put together at least a 20-game winning streak.