TACOMA, Wash.—The Puget Sound men's basketball found themselves within comeback range multiple times during the second half of Friday night's Northwest Conference matchup against Whitworth, but the Pirates made too many plays in the contest and downed the Loggers 84-74 at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma.
The first half of the game was a back-and-forth affair as the period saw seven lead changes and nine tie scores. Neither squad saw more than a five-point lead in the first half, a margin that even come until the final minute of the period. The Loggers drew first blood after a layup by Rex Nelson, and they took their largest lead of the half eight and a minutes in after Erin Barber sank a pair of free throw shots. They also took a handful of three-point leads in the period, the earliest coming just over two minutes into the game and the latest coming with 10:31 left in the half. In the first half alone, AJ Maw scored 15 points, going 6-of-7 from the field and hitting both 3-pointers he attempted in the half.
Whitworth came out of halftime and took a pair of nine-point leads to begin the second half, the first of which came 49 seconds into the period. The Loggers rattled off four straight points to come within five at the 18:05 mark, but the guests took another nine point advantage less than a minute later.
After that, neither team scored for three minutes as both defenses forced at least one turnover and a handful of missed shots. Nelson ended the scoring drought with a layup, but Whitworth countered with a layup by Taylor Farnsworth and took a 10-point lead with 13:13 remaining after another layup.
Down by 11 with 11:32 to play, the Loggers brought the 698 fans in attendance to their feet after a 6-0 run. The 1:26 stretch was kicked off with two free throws by Nelson. He next added a layup after a missed shot by the Pirates, and then James Osorio turned a Whitworth turnover into two points to finish off the run.
Whitworth extended their lead back out to nine points with 5:45 left to play, but Dan Cheledinas brought the margin back within five after sandwiching a defensive rebound between two driving layups in a span of eight seconds. The Pirates responded to Cheledinas' stretch by scoring 10 of the next 11 points for a 14-point advantage with 2:32 left to play.
Barber gave the Loggers hope by ending the run with a 3-ball, but the Whitworth offense defeated the Loggers' defensive pressure coming out of a timeout and burned crucial seconds before turning the ball over. That time proved valuable as even with late points by Nelson, Cheledinas, and Osorio, the Loggers fell by 10.
"Kudos to Whitworth, I thought that team really made some plays," said Justin Lunt, the Loggers' head coach. "We tried to mix things up defensively, but Whitworth just made plays. I thought our effort was great and I thought we played decent, but I just thought they played better. It was a tough game."
Nelson led Puget Sound with 19 points on the night, his seventh consecutive double-digit game. Barber followed just behind with 18, while Maw ended the night with 15 points and Cheledinas added 11 more. Cheledinas also led the Loggers seven rebounds. Whitworth saw four players score in double figures as well with Dustin McConnell leading the way with 19.
As a team, the Loggers shot 50.0% from the field and 31.2% from beyond the arc. Whitworth posted a similar field goal percentage mark – 49.1% – but shot 10-of-18 from 3-point range for a 3-point percentage of 55.6%.
The Loggers (11-9, 7-4 NWC) will play another tough game Saturday, Feb. 8, when they host Whitman. That game tips off at 6:00 p.m. – two hours earlier than the usual time slot – again at Memorial Fieldhouse. Before the game, the Logger Club will hold a celebration for all of Puget Sound's former D-III student-athletes in Room 117 of Memorial Fieldhouse.