Whitworth Escapes Willamette With OT Victory - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Whitworth Escapes Willamette With OT Victory

Christian Jurlina led all players with 21 points and led the Pirates with nine rebounds. Christian Jurlina led all players with 21 points and led the Pirates with nine rebounds.


SALEM, Ore. – The newly-anointed top-ranked team in Division III basketball was pushed to the limit by Willamette University on Friday night, but the Whitworth Pirates escaped with an 81-77 overtime victory on the road in Cone Field House.

Whitworth avoided its first loss to Willamette since 2008 and improved to 14-0 overall and 5-0 in the Northwest Conference.  The Bearcats fell to 4-10, 1-4.

Willamette looked primed to pull the upset after dominating the first half.  The Bearcats held the Pirates to only 29% (9-31) from the field, including 25% (2-8) from three-point range.  Willamette took its largest lead of the game when Nico Troplent hit a three-pointer to increase the margin to 37-28 with just over a minute to play.  Kenny Love made a layup with five seconds left to pull Whitworth within seven at halftime.

The Pirates spent the first ten minutes of the second half trying to get back even with the Bearcats.  It finally happened when George Valle scored to tie the game 49-49 with 10:41 to play and Matt Staudacher followed with a three-point play to give the Bucs their first lead since the first half.

But Willamette didn't flinch and the teams traded leads four times over the next four minutes.  Whitworth trailed 60-59 with 6:32 to go when the Pirates went on a 6-0 run that appeared to give them control of the contest at 65-60.  But the Bearcats responded with their own 9-0 run to take a 69-65 lead with just under two minutes to play, putting them within reach of pulling the upset.

The Pirate defense held Willamette scoreless over the final minutes of regulation and they tied the game 69-69 when Love made two free throws with 35 seconds to go.  Kyle Roach had a chance to win it for Whitworth as the buzzer sounded, but his running three-pointer bounced around the rim and out.

The Pirates never trailed in overtime, scoring the first five points to take a 74-69 lead.  Willamette got back within 76-74 on Brendon McCullough's three-point play with 1:49 to go and got the ball back after an offensive foul.  But Love made a steal and the team worked the clock until Roach scored late in the shot clock with 45 seconds left.  Troplent hit his fourth three of the game with 13 seconds left to get the Bearcats back within 79-77, but Christian Jurlina calmly made two free throws with 11.8 seconds left to clinch the win.

Jurlina led all players with 21 points and led the Pirates with nine rebounds.  Valle scored 19 of his 20 points after halftime and also grabbed nine boards.  Love finished with 14 points and four assists and Staudacher scored 11 to give Whitworth four in double figures.  Whitworth made 54.5% (18/33) of its shots from the field after halftime.

Troplent led Willamette with 18 points while Brandon Luedtke posted a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. 

Whitworth returns to action on Saturday night when the Pirates visit George Fox.

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