PARKLAND, Wash. – Dustin McConnell's basket with 25 seconds to play put 4th-ranked Whitworth in the lead for the final time and the Pirates held on to defeat Pacific Lutheran 71-68 on Saturday evening at Olson Auditorium.
Whitworth improved to 18-1 overall and 10-0 in the Northwest Conference with its 18th straight victory. The host Lutes fell to 5-14, 3-7.
Neither team led by more than six points in a tightly-played contest that included four lead changes.
Four players scored in double figures for the Pirates to overcome a 25-point performance from PLU's Cameron Schilling.
The Lutes took a 30-28 lead at halftime after holding the Pirates scoreless over the final 4:11 of the first half.
Cole Parker's three-pointer gave PLU a 45-43 lead, but Whitworth went on an 8-2 run to take a 51-47 lead on George Valle's three-pointer. When Wade Gebbers canned a pair of free throws to put the Bucs ahead 57-51, Whitworth had taken its largest lead of the game with just under eight minutes to play.
The lead was still 60-54 when the Lutes used a 12-2 run to take a 66-62 advantage on a Schilling basket with just over two minutes to go. The Pirates then outscored the Lutes 7-0, including McConnell's key basket. Whitworth led 69-68 with five seconds left when McConnell iced the game with two free throws.
McConnell led the Pirates with 17 points, while Gebbers finished with 14. Valle and Taylor Farnsworth scored 13 points apiece and Farnsworth led Whitworth with five rebounds. The Bucs made 50% (20-40) of their shots from the field, including 50% (6-12) from three-point range.
Schilling was 10-13 from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line for his 25 points for PLU. Parker had 15 points off of the bench and Drew Earnest finished with ten. The Lutes made 53% (24-45) of their shots from the floor, 35% (6-17) from three point range.
The difference in the game came at the free throw line where Whitworth made 25-33 while PLU made 14-17.
Whitworth's 18-game winning streak is its third-longest in school history.
The Pirates return home to host second-place Lewis & Clark next Friday night.