February 3, 2012

Belcher's Double-Double Lifts Whitworth Over UPS

SPOKANE, Wash. – Lexi  Belcher's 17 points and 11 rebounds led Whitworth to a 69-61 upset of visiting Puget Sound in a Northwest Conference women's basketball game on Friday night.

Belcher's strong night helped the Pirates (9-11 overall, 5-6 NWC) keep alive their NWC playoff hopes, while the Loggers (11-9, 7-5) dropped into a tie for third place with Whitman.

Other than the opening minutes and a brief stretch midway through the second half, Whitworth led virtually the entire game.  Belcher followed a layup with two free throws that gave the Pirates a 10-6 lead in the early going.  Whitworth took its largest lead of the half at 23-13 with nine minutes left following Lauren Picha's mid-range jumper.  The lead was still 30-21 after Emily Guthrie drained a three for the Bucs, but Puget Sound managed to cut the lead to 34-29 at halftime when Jocelyn Riordan scored on a put-back basket at the buzzer.

Whitworth held a halftime lead despite shooting only 26% (8-31) in the first half.  But the Pirates' grabbed 11 offensive boards in the half that helped them get to the free throw line 21 times where they made 15 attempts.

Puget Sound turned up the pressure in the second half, forcing ten Whitworth turnovers in the period.  The Loggers used some of those turnovers to come back and take their only lead of the second half (41-40) following a basket by Sarah Stewart with just under 13 minutes left in the game.  But Picha gave the Pirates the lead back when she hit a three-pointer and Belcher followed with a basket of her own.  Whitworth never trailed again. 

Jamie Lyon's ten-footer gave the Bucs a 60-50 lead with just over five minutes left and when Guthrie hit her second three the Pirates had taken a 65-54 lead with 2:49 left.  But Kelsey McKinnis scored five straight to get Puget Sound back within 65-59 with 1:39 to go before Belcher essentially sealed the win with a jumper off of the glass.

The Pirates improved to 50% (15-30) shooting in the second half, offsetting only taking two free throws after halftime. 

Belcher led all players in both scoring a rebounding with her double-double.  Guthrie finished with 12 points and four assists, while Kayla Johnson scored 11 points. 

Riordan led Puget Sound with 13 points and Lindsay Layland scored 10 points.  Amanda Forshay led the Loggers with 10 rebounds.

Whitworth will host Pacific Lutheran on Saturday evening, while Puget Sound heads to Whitman for a key NWC contest.

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