by Alex Blade
The No. 1 ranked Whitworth men’s basketball team had two very different experiences in two days in Wooster, Ohio.
On Friday, the Pirates faced Marietta College in Timken Gymnasium, and the Bucs played like the best team in the nation, defeating the No. 11 Pioneers 93-77.
Whitworth was led by the 27 points of senior Michael Taylor, and also got 22 points from sophomore Wade Gebbers, 18 of which came in the second half.
The Bucs opened up a 35-15 lead in the first half, but saw that lead dwindle to only nine points with less than two minutes to go before halftime. Back-to-back buckets before the buzzer gave the Pirates a 49-33 lead going into the locker-room.
The second half did not start well for Whitworth, as Marietta started with an 11-0 run that cut the score to 49-44 before the Bucs finally answered with a Wade Gebbers three-pointer.
But the Pirates soon began to pull away, and led 77-61 with just under five minutes left in the game. Whitworth kept the Pioneers from getting any closer, winning by a score of 93-77.
Unfortunately for the Bucs, Saturday’s game against host-school No. 5 College of Wooster did not go as well for the Pirates. The controversial setting caused a very partisan crowd of 3,330 in Wooster’s favor.
Just as it had during the previous game, Whitworth got off to a quick start. But instead of being able to hold off a late run to end the half, Whitworth fell behind after the Scots went on an 18-4 run to take a 37-33 lead into halftime.
The Bucs got within 51-49 with 8:30 to go in the game. But that was as close as the Pirates would get, as Wooster rode their 45 percent shooting and 52 percent three-point shooting to a final score of 76-66.
Taylor was again the leading scorer for the Pirates, but he had to work hard for his 25 points, and many shots that normally go down for the senior refused to fall. The Scots were led by two-time North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year Ian Franks, who had 19 points.
The loss ended the Pirates’ bid for a national championship. But their final total of 28 wins is the most in school history, and this season will be long-remembered for the weeks spent atop the D3Hoops.com polls, Whitworth’s first ever No. 1 NCAA ranking. The case will be made by many that this was the greatest team ever assembled at Whitworth.