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Bruins upend Whitworth 98-85


GFU hands the Pirates their first NWC loss, but fall flat in 93-69 setback to Whitman

First-year head coach Maco Hamilton has been imploring his team all season to give its best effort for 40 minutes of a game.

If there was a game in which the Bruins would truly need it, it would be against league-leading and No. 3-ranked Whitworth, which came to town Friday night.

As if on cue, George Fox delivered its most complete performance on the season, taking the Pirates to task from start to finish in a 98-85 victory at Miller Gym.

What proved to be beyond the Bruins’ capabilities, however, was turning around and giving the same effort Saturday night against Whitman, which jumped all over the home team to hand it a sobering 93-69 loss. by: SETH GORDON - Tight spaces - George Fox forward Sean Atkins works through a double team during the Bruins' 98-85 upset of No. 3 Whitworth Friday night at Miller Gym. The senior later left the game after dislocating his nose and sat out Saturday's 93-69 loss to Whitman.

“They just taught us a lesson, really, on how you have to play,” Hamilton said. “They played with a lot of confidence, they played hard. I just feel like we were on our heels a little bit.”

In addition to remaining focused for most of the game Friday, the George Fox offense was hitting on all cylinders from beginning to end, especially from outside, where the Bruins hit 12 of their 20 three-point attempts, including nine in the first half.

A.J. Grant got the ball rolling early, sinking his first three attempts from long range to help GFU establish a 23-13 lead midway through the first half.

From there, Grant began attacking the basket, taking advantage when the Pirates would switch one of their big men on to him in reaction to ball screens.

At the same time, Jonny Howard picked up the slack from the outside, eventually finishing 6-for-7 on three-pointers to match Grant with 21 points.

The Bruins enjoyed a 53-39 lead at halftime, but never could shake the Pirates, who were methodical offensively in the second half, ensuring that the home side could not afford to take its foot off the gas.

“I’d probably say this was our best, most complete game,” Hamilton said. “Statistically, nothing jumps out at you, but those guys find ways to win. I was talking to my assistants at one point because I felt like we should be up 25 points when it was actually 14. That’s just the sign of a good program and that’s what they are.”

Whitworth finally got the lead under 10 points at 93-84 with 1:23 left to play, but Seth Brent, who had one of his best performances as a Bruin, snagged a rebound on a missed free throw by Grant and got the put back to salt away the win.

Brent finished with 18 points after finishing a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line. Spencer Bolte also finished in double figures with 14.

“We’ve had games where we put up 60 in the first half and then fall off and score 30 in the second,” Brent said. “It’s on the board in our locker room: coach has written ‘40 minutes of focus.’ We didn’t get 40 tonight, but maybe 38.”

The Bruins appeared on their way to a barnburner against the similarly fast-paced Missionaries on Saturday, trading punches with the visitors over the first 10 minutes of the game.

George Fox led 30-29 with 7:13 left to play, but it would be the last time they held the lead, as Whitman exploded on a 19-2 run to close the first half up 48-32.

Unlike against the Pirates, the Bruins could not penetrate against the Missionaries and struggled mightily to hang on to the ball, eventually piling up 28 turnovers. GFU shot more than 68 percent in the first half, but managed just 19 shots compared to Whitman’s 32.

The Missionaries were also deadly from the outside, draining 14 three-pointers for the game, which helped push their lead to as high as 31 points in the second half.

Howard finished with a team-high 16 points and Grant chipped in 13.

“It wasn’t a great night, but we can learn from it,” Hamilton said. “We can learn how to be great from this.”

The Bruins (10-5, 3-3 NWC) fell into a tie for fifth place with Pacific and will host Puget Sound at 8 p.m. Saturday.