Last season, the Whitworth men’s basketball team planned for senior Garrett Hull to be its defensive spark off the bench, only to see him suffer a season-ending injury six games into the campaign.
Nearly 14 months later, Hull is playing out his final season not from the bench but as a starter. And on Saturday night he thrived.
Hull scored a career-high 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor and grabbed a team-best eight rebounds to lead the Pirates to a 92-80 victory over Puget Sound at the Fieldhouse. The Pirates improved to 2-0 in the Northwest Conference and 8-3 overall.
Ben College led all scorers with 30, improving on his average of 24.4 points per game, the 13th-best mark in Division III. College, a senior, shot 12 of 16 from the field, his best percentage of the season.
But the spark for the Pirates all night was Hull, who scored 11 of his points in the final 8 minutes to help stop the Loggers’ comeback attempt.
“I just try to enjoy the process,” Hull said of playing this redshirt season. “Being with my teammates, and my family now, it’s really exciting that I get to come back and play with them. It’s awesome coming back.”
Two seasons ago, Hull started 19 games after Jordan Lester injured his knee and missed the rest of the year. Last year, though, with Lester healthy, Hull played off the bench until he got hurt on Nov. 30, 2018, against Willamette.
It was a sad coincidence then that two games after the senior Lester again suffered another season-ending knee injury last month, Hull returned to the starting lineup.
“He’s a great player. He does so many intangible things,” Pirates coach Damion Jablonski said of Hull. “You just saw his offensive confidence come to light. When you’re trying to get back in it at first the game’s kinda fast again, and then it starts to slow down and then you’re doing the solid things, and now his shot’s dropping.”
Hull played a season-high 33 minutes as the Pirates relied on their starters more than usual. A game after its bench had 29 points in a 75-59 victory over Pacific Lutheran, Whitworth got only 12 from its reserves against Puget Sound (6-5, 0-2 NWC).
That was largely due to the UPS press, which forced Whitworth’s three primary bench players into half of the team’s 16 turnovers.
But the Pirates started the game much better than the previous night, when Pacific Lutheran shot 50% in the first half. This time, the Pirates shot 50% in the first half and held the Loggers to just 11 of 30 (36.7%) from the field.
That included a 0-for-8 half for Cal Hansen and Stellan Roberts, Puget Sound’s leading duo that came in averaging a combined 35.4 points per game.
“We just came out and weren’t happy with how we performed in the first half yesterday,” Pirates junior Reed Brown said, “and we knew we had to turn that around and really set the tone from the get-go.”
With that tone set and a 40-27 lead at the break, Whitworth charged ahead with a faster offensive pace to start the second. It sank 14 of its first 16 shots after halftime and ballooned its lead to 22.
The Loggers chipped away – Roberts and Hansen finished with a combined 31 points – and got the gap down to eight with 44 seconds to go. A pair of free throws each from Hull and College, followed by Hull’s uncontested layup with less than 2 seconds to go, iced the game for the Pirates.
Brown scored a career-high 12 points. Senior Sam Lees added 10 points and seven rebounds for Whitworth, which hosts Willamette and Lewis & Clark next weekend.
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