SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth University rallied from a 20-point deficit to overcome visiting Pacific Lutheran 81-69, avoiding a potential Northwest Conference men's basketball upset on Friday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The 4th-ranked Pirates trailed 38-18 late in the first half, but dominated the game from that point on to improve to 16-2 overall and 8-1 in the NWC. It was the largest comeback victory for Whitworth in head coach Matt Logie's seven seasons leading the Bucs.
PLU (4-13, 1-8) was the looser, more aggressive team in the opening 17 minutes of the game. After Kyle Roach hit a three-pointer to give Whitworth a 5-4 lead, its only lead of the opening half, the Lutes answered with consecutive baskets. Sam Lees scored to pull the Pirates to within 22-18, but PLU went on a 16-0 run to open its 20-point margin. Leighton Kingma's three-pointer gave the Lutes a 30-18 lead and Markus Glenn's three-pointer capped the run. Whitworth managed to finish the half on an 8-2 spurt, but PLU still led 40-26 at the break.
The statistics demonstrated the Lutes' dominance in the opening 20 minutes. PLU shot 58% (15-26) from the field and held the Pirates to 32% (9-28). The Lutes forced nine Whitworth turnovers (while committing only six) and outrebounded the Bucs 16-15.
The Pirates opened the second half in a zone defense that caused some initial confusion for PLU. Whitworth made its first three baskets and got within 41-32 on Jared Christy's layup 90 seconds into the period. Christy pulled the Pirates within 47-45 with a pair of free throws before PLU extended the lead back to 52-45 on another Kingma three-pointer. Whitworth answered with a 12-0 run, going up 57-52 on Ben Bishop's layup with 9:39 to play. The Pirates would never trail again. Ben College's free throws gave Whitworth its first double-digit lead (68-57) and another Christy basket gave the Bucs their largest lead (75-59) with under four minutes to play.
The second half stats were as telling as the first half. Whitworth shot 70% (21-30) after halftime and held PLU to 42% (10-24). The Pirates outrebounded the Lutes 19-7 after halftime and committed only two more turnovers. Whitworth finished with 20 assists, including 13 in the second half.
"We looked like we were stuck in mud for much of the first half and PLU made some nice plays and built some confidence," Logie said. "Thankfully we were able to stem the tide at the end of the first half and regroup at halftime. We played Whitworth basketball in the second half."
Roach scored 18 points to lead the Pirates, while Christy finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Garrett Hull filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals. College also had 11 points to give the Bucs four players in double figures.
Kelton Williams scored 15 points for PLU, 10 in the first half. Glen had 13, while Kingma and Zac Webb scored ten apiece.
Whitworth swept the season series with the Lutes and earned its 27th straight win over PLU. The Pirates will conclude their two-game homestand by hosting Puget Sound on Saturday night at 6:00 pm.