Men’s Basketball Falls Short in Second Battle of the Whits

Sarah Anderegg

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In the second battle of the Whits in men’s basketball this season, both Whitman and Whitworth had their fair share of ups and downs throughout the 40 minutes of play.  However, it was the 13th-ranked Whitworth who prevailed, coming out on top of the Missionaries 79-76 on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Despite key contributions from senior post Ben Eisenhardt, who scored a game and career high of 30 points with a 13-18 shooting record, and a strong performance from senior quard LuQuam Thompson, who had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists, Whitman could not hold off the balanced attack of the Pirates. Three of Whitworth’s players scored in double figures. Seniors Dustin McConnell and Colton McCargar and first-year Christian Jurlina scored 22, 14 and 14 points respectively.

Whitworth led most of the game, going up 11-5 in the first eight minutes of play.  For the rest of the first half, the two teams swapped baskets and Whitman never got within two points of Whitworth, ending the half 40-36.

Similarly, the Missionaries got off to a slow second-half start, coming out and getting down nine points, five of of which were from McConnell, who scored well above his season average of 12.8 points per game.  It was not until there were seven minutes left in the game that Whitman claimed its first lead with a three-pointer from junior guard Clay Callahan.  That was as close as the Whitman could get––every time the Missionaries went on a run, getting the game within a few points, the Pirates would battle back.

The last seconds of the game were up for grabs as junior guard Dominic Lippi nailed a baseline three-pointer with just 5.7 seconds left on the clock to bring the score to 78-76.  Whitworth first-year Kenny Love was fouled and sent to the free throw line, where he only converted one of his two free throws.  Now a three-point game, the Pirates strategically fouled Callahan on the in-bounds pass, preventing the Missionaries from any chance of shooting a three-pointer to push the game into overtime.   Callahan’s intentional miss on his second shot came up empty handed, since Whitworth secured the rebound at the final buzzer.

The idea that free throws win basketball games held true in this match up.  Whitman had the Pirates beat in almost every statistical category with the exception of successful free throw percentage, in which Whitman shot 57.1 percent and Whitworth shot 71.9 percent. From everywhere on the floor except the charity stripe, Whitman seemed to be making their shots.  They were 49 percent from the floor and a dangerous 42 percent from behind the arc. The Missionaries also out-rebounded Whitworth 34-31.

With this win, Whitworth clinched the Northwest Conference championship title, as well as a home court advantage during the conference tournament.  The game secured Whitman a second place finish, guaranteeing them another game at Sherwood Center next Thursday, Feb. 27.

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