LA VERNE, Calif. – Visiting Whitworth spent the first 14 minutes of the game building a 28-point lead, then spent the rest of the contest holding off host La Verne in a 96-88 win over the Leopards on Sunday afternoon.
The 8th-ranked Pirates improved to 6-1 while La Verne dropped to 5-2.
Whitworth came out on fire, shooting 67% from the field and 80% from three-point range over the first 14 minutes. The Pirates hit five straight shots, including three three-pointers, to turn a 36-19 lead into a 49-21 advantage with just over six minutes to play in the opening period.
But the Leopards refused to go away, pulling to within 55-41 at the break, cutting the margin in half. Christian Jurlina scored 14 points and Kenny Love added 13 in the opening 20 minutes for the Bucs.
The Leopards opened the second half with back-to-back-to-back three-pointers, trimming the margin below double-digits for the first time since the opening five minutes of the game. But Derek Isaak's three-pointer with just under 15 minutes to play stretched the lead back out to 69-55.
The Leopards closed to within 71-64 with 12 minutes to play on a basket by Cruz Mertens. But that's when the Pirate defense settled in, holding La Verne scoreless for the next four minutes to build the lead back to double figures. The closest the Leopards would get the rest of the way was to within 90-84, but only 37 seconds remained in the game at that point.
Jurlina and Love scored 22 points apiece to lead the Pirates, while Drew Sears, Ben College and CJ Johnson scored 10 points apiece. Whitworth finished the game 52.5% (31-59) from the field, 61.1% (11-18) from three-point range.
Hakim Arnold scored a game-high 27 points for the Leopards, while Anthony White added 13 and Mertens scored a dozen. The Leopards shot 42.3% (30-71), but held a 40-32 advantage on the boards.
Whitworth will continue its trip to California with a game at Chapman University on Monday night at 7:00 pm.