Pirates down Eagles for Sweet Sixteen berth

by Korey Hope

Thanks in part to the hot shooting hand of junior guard Colton McCargar, the Whitworth men’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the 2013 NCAA Division III Men’s Tournament last Saturday, beating Emory University Eagles (Ga.) 86-67 in the Fieldhouse. McCargar led all scorers with a career-high 26 points and four other Pirates finished the game scoring in double digits.

The Pirates opened up their scoring  with a lay-up from junior guard Dustin McConnell, followed by a 3-point basket from senior forward Mack Larkin. The Whitworth student section was sitting down in silence until the Bucs reached five points, and proceeded to erupt with cheers and chanting after Larkin’s three. A quick five point lead arose for the Pirates and their offensive pressure increased as the half continued.

“I had no idea about the five-point plan at the beginning of the game,” Larkin said. “It was really cool to be a part of and it’s always nice to get off to a good start.”

McCargar led the Pirates in the first half with 18 points and didn’t miss a shot, going 7-7 from the field and 4-4 from beyond the arc. The Bucs also played well defensively, forcing six Eagle turnovers and taking a 42-30 lead into the locker room.

The beginning of the second half began much like the first with the Pirates going on a 14-7 run when play resumed. However, Emory resisted and put a full-court press into effect, managing to cut the Pirate lead to 10 with a little over five minutes remaining in the game.

“When a team has their season on the line, they’re going to be physical and strong,” Whitworth head coach Matt Logie said. “I thought we did a good job weathering the storm.”

Things took a turn for the worst for the Eagles when leading scorer, junior forward Jake Davis, was ejected after picking up his second technical foul of the game for landing an elbow on the side of Larkin’s head after a made basket. After Davis headed to the locker room early, McConnell stepped up to the free-throw line for four shots: two for being fouled while driving to the hoop and two for the Davis’ technical foul. After he made all four attempts, McCargar and senior guard Wade Gebbers combined to stretch the Pirate lead back out to 19 points.

McConnell tallied 17 points on 12-12 from the free-throw line, along with four rebounds, a pair of assists, a pair of steals and a block for the game. The Emory Eagles never got back within 18 points of the Bucs, who finished strong for an 86-67 final score.

“We knew that whoever threw the first punch wasn’t going to win the fight,” Logie said. “It was going to be jab after jab and I thought we played very consistent tonight.”

The Pirates shot the ball well throughout the game, racking up a 53.2 percent field goal percentage as compared to their average on the year at 51.1 percent. And from 3-point range, the Pirates exceeded their season average of three-pointers by almost 15 percent, hitting 10 of 19 shots from downtown. McCargar made six of those 10. Also, the Bucs shot well from the free-throw line, making 26 of their 31 attempts on the night. McConnell and Gebbers combined to go 20 for 20 from the charity stripe.

The official attendance count for Saturday’s game was 1,745, which exceeded the maximum capacity for the Fieldhouse for the second time in the last three games at home for the Bucs.

“Playing in front a crowd like that, there’s really nothing like it,” McCargar said.

The Pirates will host Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas) in the third-round Sweet Sixteen game on March 16 at 7 p.m. The two teams played once already this season on Nov. 23 in the Whitworth Fieldhouse with the Bucs coming out on top 70-61.

Contact Korey Hope at khope16@my.whitworth.edu

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