SALEM, Ore. – Brendon McCullough's runner bounced off the rim as time expired, allowing 7th-ranked Whitworth to escape with a 67-65 win at Willamette in a Northwest Conference men's basketball game on Friday night at Cone Field House.
The visiting Pirates improved to 14-2 overall and 6-1 in the NWC despite suffering through their worst shooting night of the season (36%).
The Bearcats (8-8, 3-4 NWC) jumped out to a 9-1 lead three minutes into the game and led 12-3 after a three-pointer by Casey Thornton. Whitworth responded with a 12-2 run, capped by a Kyle Roach three-pointer, to take a 15-14 lead. Trailing 18-17, the Pirates used a 15-2 run late in the first half to open a 32-20 advantage. But Willamette was able to pull back within 33-25 at halftime.
Whitworth led at the half despite shooting only 29% from the field in the first 20 minutes. However, the Pirates took advantage of 11 turnovers by the Bearcats and the Bucs went 7-10 at the free throw line while Willamette was 0-2.
Ben College and Ben Bishop scored the first two baskets of the second half to give Whitworth a 37-25 lead, tying its largest margin of the night. The Pirates were still up 47-36 when Willamette used a 12-3 run to pull within 50-48 on Trent Callan's jump shot. Nico Troplent's three-pointer gave the Bearcats their first lead (63-62) since the first half with 1:52 to play.
Trailing 65-64, Roach hit a pair of free throws to give the Bucs back the lead with 1:05 to play. The Pirates then forced Willamette turnovers on consecutive possessions, but got only one free throw from Sam Lees for their final point. Roach's three-point attempt with under ten seconds left was rebounded by McCullough, giving Willamette its last-ditch shot. McCullough took the inbounds pass, went the length of the floor, drove into traffic and was not able to get a clean look at a tying basket.
Roach finished with a game-high 22 points and added six rebounds. Jared Christy had 12 points and eight boards, while College scored 11. Lees came off the bench for 10 points and five rebounds.
Whitworth committed only nine turnovers and 11 personal fouls.
Jordan Jenkins scored 18 points to lead Willamette, while Callan finished with 13 points. Thornton scored nine off the bench on three three-pointers.
Whitworth, which won its 16th in a row over the Bearcats, will complete its trip to Oregon on Saturday with a game at Linfield College at 6:00 pm.