Pirate Defense Dominates Linfield

Photo courtesy Kelly Bird, Linfield College
Photo courtesy Kelly Bird, Linfield College

McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Eighth-ranked Whitworth dealt host Linfield a taste of its own medicine while rolling to a 79-63 victory over the Wildcats on Friday night in Northwest Conference men's basketball action.

The Pirates improved to 17-3 overall and 8-3 in the NWC by sweeping the season series against the Wildcats.  Linfield (12-8, 6-5) came into the game having won five of its last six contests.

The Wildcats lead the conference in scoring defense and defensive field goal percentage this season.  But it was the Whitworth defense that dominated in this contest.  The Pirates held Linfield to only 35% shooting from the field (22-62) and only 23.8% (5-21) from three-point range.  Whitworth blocked seven shots, including four by Drew Sears.

The Pirates never trailed, jumping to an early 11-3 lead as Linfield missed nine of its first ten field goal attempts.  The Wildcats pulled to within 14-13, but that's as close as Linfield would get.  CJ Johnson drained a three-pointer to extend Whitworth's lead out to 31-19 and the Bucs led 38-25 on a Derek Isaak fastbreak layup before taking a 38-29 lead into halftime.  Whitworth shot 56% in the first half while holding Linfield to only 29%.

The Wildcats were still within 46-38 five minutes into the second half.  But Christian Jurlina sparked a 9-0 run by scoring seven of the points to extend the lead to 55-38.  Later in the half Whitworth connected on three straight three-pointers, two by Kyle Roach and one by Kenny Love, to open the largest lead of the game at 66-42 with ten minutes to play.  Linfield never got closer than the final margin of 16 points the rest of the way.

The win is Whitworth's 18th in a row over Linfield and the Pirates now hold a two-game lead over the Wildcats for second place in the NWC standings.

Jurlina led Whitworth with a game-high 18 points, while Roach added 16 and CJ Johnson finished with 12 points off of the bench.  Roach led the Bucs with seven rebounds and dished four assists.  Sears tallied eight points and six boards to go along with his four blocked shots.  Whitworth finished with a field goal percentage of 53.8 (28-52). 

Mason Rodby led Linfield with 13 points and Vince Romeo came off of the bench for 12 points. 

The Pirates will conclude the weekend trip with a game at Pacific University on Saturday, looking to avenge a 90-88 loss to the Boxers from back in early January.