Whitworth Rides Fast Start to Win Over Willamette - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

Whitworth Rides Fast Start to Win Over Willamette

George Valle scored 20 points to lead the Pirates on Senior Night. George Valle scored 20 points to lead the Pirates on Senior Night.

by Whitworth Athletics

SPOKANE, Wash. - Fifth-ranked Whitworth jumped to an 11-0 lead and never looked back in Saturday night's 72-53 win over visiting Willamette in a Northwest Conference men's basketball match-up in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.

George Valle scored 20 points while Drew Sears dominated the inside with 14 rebounds and six blocked shots to help the Pirates improve to 22-1 overall and 13-1 in the NWC.

The victory came on a night when Whitworth recognized its four seniors.  Valle, Matt Staudacher, AJ Grant and Brandon Loiler were all participating in the final regular season home game of their careers.

Valle, Kenny Love and Christian Jurlina all scored points as Whitworth jumped out to its 11-0 lead five minutes into the game.  Willamette (7-16 overall, 4-10 NWC) did not score its first points until Nico Troplent's lay-up almost six minutes into the first half.  The Bearcats fought back to within 22-17 on Alex Brown's basket later in the first half.  But the Pirates finished the half on an 11-4 run, including a three-pointer by Love, to take a 33-21 lead into halftime.

The Pirates opened the second half with Jurlina's three-point play and a three-point shot by Staudacher to quickly extend the lead to 39-21.  When Drew Sears scored his first basket of the game two minutes later Whitworth's lead had increased to 45-22.  The Pirates eventually led by as many as 26 points with just under four minutes to play after Jurlina's free throw made the score 70-44.

Valle finished a rebound short of his second straight double-double, totaling nine boards and four assists to go along with the 20 points.  Sears was a force inside.  Eight of his career-high 14 rebounds were on the offensive end.  And he affected many more Willamette shots than just the six official blocks.  Jurlina added 15 points and Love finished with 13 for the Bucs.  Whitworth shot 42% (28-66) from the field and outrebounded the Bearcats 52-35.

Brown and Brandon Luedtke each had ten points for Willamette.  Luedtke also lead the Bearcats with eight rebounds.  Willamette shot only 32% (20-63) from the field, including 20% (4-20) from three-point range.

Whitworth will close the regular season next weekend with games at Puget Sound (Friday) and Pacific Lutheran (Saturday).  The Pirates can claim an unprecedented seventh straight NWC regular season title with a pair of victories.

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