The Pirates, who just recently dropped from No. 1 to No. 5 in the nation after an unexpected loss to Whitman College two weeks ago, secured two more wins last weekend against the George Fox Bruins 83-67 and Willamette Bearcats 72-53 in their final two home games of the regular season. The victories improved the Buc’s overall record to 22-1 and 13-1 in conference. The Pirates got off to a slow start Friday night as the Bruins acquired an early lead in the first half with a quick steal and score.
“We knew going in that they were a really aggressive team that uses the 3-point line to attack you with their guard play,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We just didn’t do a great job in the first half defending against that.”
But the Bucs responded quickly and overtook George Fox with a three-point play by senior George Valle, putting the Pirates up 27-22.
Valle would go on to get ten rebounds and score 23 points before the end of the night, making it his fifth double-double of the season.
By the end of the half, Whitworth had extended their lead to 46-35, which was emphasized with a dunk by junior Drew Sears in the final minutes.
The Pirates held the Bruins scoreless for the first three minutes of the second half and increased their lead to 54-35 with consecutive scores from Jurlina, Sears and Valle. While the Bruins’ 3-point accuracy was well above their average of 37.4 percent in the first half (44.4 percent), the Bucs managed to hold them to 38.5 percent after the break.
Whitworth finished out strong, making 61.9 percent of their field goals. Their final push insured the Pirate win, 83-67.
“It was a sloppy win, but we’ll take it” Roach said. “We’ll bounce back tomorrow.”
The Pirates made the adjustment and seized the lead early in their Senior Night game against the Bearcats, scoring 11 unanswered points before their opponent was able to respond. The Pirate defense smothered Willamette, holding them to just 21 points in the first half. The Bearcats were only able to sink 23.8 percent of their shots before halftime.
The Bearcats finally got on the board around the seven-minute mark with a layup, but it was too late. The Bucs dominated the boards with 28 rebounds to their opponent’s 18. Sears led the team with 14 total rebounds, seven of which were in the first half. With 13 points of his own, Valle led the Bucs to a 33-21 lead over Willamette at the break.
“It’s a big credit to our defense,” Valle said. “Yesterday, we struggled to get stops and we weren’t contesting their 3-point shots, but today we brought the energy which allowed us to get off to a fast start.”
The second half opened with a quick three-point play by Jurlina in the first minute. Jurlina finished the night with a total of 15 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Kenny Love also made a big impact with 13 points of his own. Love made an impressive 61.5 percent of his attempted shots.
“When you focus on the defensive end of the floor it really carries over to your offensive game,” Love said. “It was just a matter of bringing that same defensive prowess we had yesterday to today and then just trusting myself on the offensive end.”
Whitworth put it away in the end 72-53.
The Pirates travel to Tacoma next weekend for their final two regular season games against Puget Sound Friday at 8 p.m. and Pacific Lutheran Saturday at 6 p.m.