SPOKANE, Wash. – Freshman KC McConnell scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds to keep the Whitworth women's basketball team undefeated at home with a 69-50 win over the visiting Willamette University Bearcats on Friday evening in Whitworth Fieldhouse.
"I was happy with our focus and commitment to play hard and defend our home court," Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. "Defensively, we had great effort too but we needed to finish on the boards more consistently."
Whitworth (11-5, 4-3 NWC) converted an offensive rebound into a three-pointer from junior Jamie Lyons in the Pirates' opening possession to put the Bucs on the scoreboard first. Whitworth went up 10-5 in the opening five minutes, but Willamette (0-15, 0-6 NWC) answered with a 6-0 run to take the lead with just under 13:00 to play in the first.
Junior Bethany Fleming answered with a layup on Whitworth's next possession to put the Bucs back in front. The Pirates continued to push their lead, going up by 16 points on a pair of free throws from McConnell, but the Bearcats fought their way back, cutting the Bucs's lead to single digits just before half. Whitworth led 37-28 at the break.
Redshirt junior Emily Travis pushed Whitworth back ahead by double digits with a layup in the opening seconds of the second half and the Pirates took advantage of the momentum. Whitworth never trailed in the second half and enjoyed its biggest lead of the night, 23 points, after junior Kendra Lahue scored a bucket in the paint with 6:20 remaining in the game.
Despite getting outrebounded 50-46, Whitworth was able to pull down 20 offensive rebounds and convert them into 23 second chance points. Whitworth forced 21 Willamette turnovers, while only committing eight themselves. Whitworth had five steals in each half, for a total of 10 steals in the game. The Pirates continued their team play, with 17 assists on 25 field goals.
"We had a good, balanced effort on offense tonight. I loved our focus on offense and the fact that we made the next pass," said Higgs.
In addition to McConnell's game-high 14 points, Whitworth got eight points apiece from senior Emily Guthrie and junior Kayla Johnson, and seven points each from Lyons and Travis. Lyons grabbed five boards for the Bucs, while Guthrie pulled down four rebounds. Sophomore Kendra Knutsen had a game-high four assists for Whitworth, while Johnson had a game-high three steals.
Jo Johnston led Willamette with a double-double, scoring 12 points and grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds. Julia Brand chipped in 11 points for the Bearcats, while Mackenzie Lamson grabbed nine rebounds.
Next up, Whitworth hosts Linfield College at 4:00 pm on Saturday in Whitworth Fieldhouse.