by Andrew Goodwin|Sports Editor
Scoring from senior wing Christian Jurlina and rebounding from fellow senior Drew Sears keyed Whitworth wins this weekend over Puget Sound, 69-62, and Pacific Lutheran, 72-48.
The Tacoma sweep virtually ensures the Bucs will host a Northwest Conference semifinal on Feb. 23 against an opponent to be determined.
“We love to play at home, so getting to host at least one game in our house is what we want,” senior guard Derek Isaak said.
Whitworth earned the opportunity to host with two different styles of wins in Tacoma. In their Friday game against PLU, the Pirates were losing by one at halftime before using a 13-0 run with 12:47 left in the game to pull away from the Lutes.
Kenny Love, ‘17, scored seven of Whitworth’s 13 points in the run. The Bucs forced PLU into four turnovers and six missed jump shots as they pulled away.
“We just had to keep trusting that our offense would come as the game went on, and defensively we had one of our best efforts this season,” Love said.
Kyle Roach, ‘19, led the Pirate scoring with 17 points, and Jurlina finished the game with a double-double. Jurlina scored 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“What makes Jurlina really tough to guard is how versatile he is,” Love said. “He can play inside, shoot from the perimeter, and create off the dribble for us.”
Whitworth needed another high-scoring game from Jurlina to complete their weekend. He poured in 19 points against Puget Sound to bring his total to 35 on the road trip. The Bucs needed all 19 of Jurlina’s points to win a game where they shot just 28.6 percent from three. This season, Whitworth is the eighth best team in the country with a 41.5 three-point percentage.
Sears, aided Jurlina’s effort by pulling down 11 rebounds. Five of Sears’ boards came on the offensive end, giving Whitworth extra opportunities they would turn into eight points.
Even with Sears’ and Jurlina’s efforts, Whitworth struggled to beat UPS, a team they barely defeated earlier in the season. The Loggers scored 36 points off the bench to keep the game close.
“[UPS] has a lot of guys who can score in a variety of ways, which makes them tough to guard,” Isaak said.
In the end, Whitworth held off the Loggers despite a UPS comeback where they whittled a 15-point deficit down to three. Love and Jurlina made a pair of free throws each to secure the victory for the Bucs.
Next up, Whitworth returns home for their final weekend of Northwest Conference play. The Bucs take on George Fox at 8 p.m on Friday and Lewis and Clark at 6 p.m. on Saturday.