Whitworth Women Use Defense To Beat Willamette - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Whitworth Women Use Defense To Beat Willamette

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Whitworth was able to take advantage of Willamette's poor start to extend its own winning streak. Whitworth was able to take advantage of Willamette's poor start to extend its own winning streak.

by Whitworth University Sports Information

SALEM, Ore. – The Whitworth University women’s basketball team picked up its second double digit Northwest Conference win after defeating Willamette 76-50 on Saturday afternoon at the Cone Field House.

Whitworth improves to 8-3 on the season, 2-0 in NWC action. Willamette falls to 2-9 overall, 0-2 in the NWC.

“It is great to start league play with a road sweep,” Whitworth head coach Helen Higgs said. “We started out a little flat, but I thought our bench picked us up. It was a great effort by our entire team.”

Whitworth’s defense was the difference maker in the game as the Pirates struggled early on offense. After leading 9-6, the Pirates found themselves down 17-12 to the Bearcats. Whitworth turned up the pressure on the defensive end, challenging shots and forcing eight turnovers in the final nine minutes of the half, including three in the last minute. Pressure on the defensive end helped the Pirates put points on the board as Whitworth scored 15 points in the first half off of Willamette turnovers.

After trailing 17-12 with 10:29 left in the first half, Whitworth went on a 25-5 run. Sophomore Lexie Zappone gave Whitworth a 21-20 lead at the 6:19 mark and then senior Kendra Lahue and sophomore KC McConnell put together a 10-2 run between the two of them to extend Whitworth’s lead to nine points. The Pirates led 37-22 at halftime. Whitworth continued to push its lead, going up by as many as 28 points on a free throw from junior JoJo Nicolas with 1:27 left in the game.

The Pirates shot 36.6 percent for the game, while the Bearcats shot 36.5 percent. Whitworth made 18 of its 26 free throws, for a 69.2 free throw percentage. Willamette was 6-9 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line.

“Again, our rebounding and ability to force turnovers gave us a distinct advantage. KC McConnell really sticks out, getting 10 boards for the second straight night,” Higgs said.

Whitworth forced 22 Willamette turnovers on the night, which the Pirates turned into 21 points. The Pirates outrebounded the Bearcats 49-33, including a 21-6 advantage on the offensive glass. Whitworth converted the offensive rebounds into 18 second chance points. Junior Jessica Kramer’s four rebounds all came on the offensive glass.

KC McConnell led the Pirates with a career-high tying 21 points and 10 rebounds, including five offensive boards. Senior Kayla Johnson joined McConnell with a double-double of her own, scoring 11 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Lexie Zappone added 12 points for Whitworth and dished out three assists for Whitworth. Kendra Lahue chipped in 10 points. Junior Kendra Knutsen had a game-high three steals.

Deana Mau led the Bearcats with 12 points, while Jojo DeLong added 11 points for Willamette. Rebecca Josephson pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.

Next up, Whitworth returns to Spokane to host Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound in Northwest Conference action. The Pirates face the Lutes at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, January 10th and the Loggers at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 11th.

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