SPOKANE, Wash. – Mack Larkin scored a career-high 17 points to help rally 11th-ranked Whitworth to a 77-69 win over visiting Simpson College on Saturday night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
The Pirates won their ninth straight game to improve to 9-1. The Storm fell for the second straight time and dropped to 4-7.
Larkin's big night helped Whitworth rally from several 10-point first half deficits. Wade Gebbers added 16 points and Dustin McConnell scored 10 for the Bucs. In a spot start, Zach Payne added nine points and four rebounds.
"I thought our seniors – Mack, Zach and Wade – really carried us, which we needed because we didn't start the game on defense the way we'd like to," said Whitworth head coach Matt Logie.
Simpson stormed out of the gate by making 10 of its first 11 shots from the field, including two three-pointers by Charles Swain and one from Austin Hennings that gave the visitors a 24-14 lead just over eight minutes into the half. Simpson kept the lead at ten points for much of the next four minutes. AJ Arrington's basket kept the Storm's lead at 33-23 with 7:50 to go before halftime.
But then Whitworth began to chip away at the lead. Colton McCargar's three-pointer cut the lead to 36-33 and Larkin's lay up tied the game at 38-38. But Arrington scored again with 20 seconds to go to give Simpson a 40-38 lead at the break. Simpson shot 64% (16-25) in the first half, while the Pirates hit 47% (14-30) of their shots.
Whitworth turned up the defense to turn the tide in the second half. The Pirates held Simpson to nine points over the first twelve minutes of the second period. Gebbers hit a pair of free throws to give Whitworth its first double-digit lead (56-46) with 10:24 to go. Another three-pointer by McCargar gave the Pirates their largest lead at 63-50 with 7:11 to play.
"Fortunately the first several minutes of the second half we really locked down on defense," Logie said. "That allowed us to build a cushion for the rest of the game."
The second half was a reverse of the first. Whitworth hit 70% of its shots in the second half to finish the game at 56% (28-50) from the field. The Bucs made 47% (8-17) of their shots from beyond the arc. Simpson was held to 48% in the second half and finished the game just under 56% (29-52). The Storm was 67% (8-12) from three-point range. Whitworth held a slight edge on the boards (27-23).
Five players reached double figures for Simpson, led by Swain's 14 points. Hennings added 13 and six rebounds, while Elijah Knox scored 12 and dished four assists.
"I think Simpson is a very good 4-7 team," Logie said. "They played Whitman tough two nights ago and showed a lot against us. I am very glad to be 9-1 going into the break."
Larkin's previous career high was 13 points at Linfield last season.
The Pirates will break for the Christmas holiday and then return to action on December 31st, hosting Hamline (Minn.) at 2:00 pm in the Fieldhouse.