SAN ANTONIO - A strong second-half rally went for naught Wednesday afternoon as Whitman College dropped a back-and-forth 60-50 decision to Wheaton (Ill.) in men's basketball action at the Trinity National Invitational Tournament.
Whitman, which blitzed Buena Vista 75-38 Tuesday night in its first tournament game, slipped to 7-3 on the season.
Wheaton, ranked No. 28 in the latest D3hoops.com national poll, was playing its first tourney tilt and upped its record to 8-2.
The Thunder, ranked as high as No. 13 early this season, squares off with a second Northwest Conference school, Pacific Lutheran, today.
With David Michaels collecting four quick points, Whitman grabbed an early 6-4 lead before Wheaton reeled off nine straight points. LuQuam Thompson stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer, but the Thunder inched back in front by an 18-11 margin with 11 minutes left in the opening half.
Three-point strikes by Matt Mounier and sophomore Jordan Dickson pulled Whitman even at 20-20, but Wheaton regained command with its second nine-point run of the half.
After the Missionaries closed the gap to 29-23 at the 3:22 mark on Thompson's three-point play in the lane, Wheaton notched the next four points to take its largest lead of the half at 34-23 with little more than a minute left.
Michaels made those 60 seconds count, scoring off an offensive rebound and canning two free throws, drawing Whitman with 34-27 at the break.
A quick-strike bucket nine seconds into the second half extended the Thunder lead, but Whitman dominated the next several minutes, working its way inside to draw a string of Wheaton fouls.
In addition to knocking down a jumper, Michaels teamed with Mounier and Josh Duckworth to make seven of 10 free throws. That squared the game at 36-all with 14:17 remaining.
With a defender on his hip, Thompson finished a fast-break layin and then capitalized on a Michaels rebound and Duckworth assist for a second score at the hoop. Thompson's back-to-back buckets capped a 13-0 Whitman flurry and had the Missionaries in front 40-36 with 12 minutes left to play.
After Tyler Peters drained a three for the Thunder, Ben Eisenhardt rolled through the lane to give Whitman a 42-39 edge.
Two Wheaton free throws made it a one-point game, and the Thunder caught a break when Michaels was whistled for a turnover, negating his scoring drive down the right side of the lane.
That cleared the way for Tim McCrary's jumper to give Wheaton a 43-42 edge. Whitman came right back behind Duckworth, who worked his way into the paint to loft home a jumper, restoring a one-point Missionary lead.
Taking advantage of an offensive rebound, Jeremy Pflederer hit another big three for Wheaton on its next trip down the floor, but Thompson got to the hoop at the other end, producing the game's sixth and final tie at 46-46 with 7:28 on the clock.
After two more offensive rebounds gave Wheaton its next bucket, Tad Fischer nailed a trey (his only points of the game) to help the Thunder pull away down the stretch.
Whitman got most of its offense from Michaels, Duckworth and Thompson, who combined to make 14 of 28 shots from the floor.
Michaels and Duckworth, who also converted 10-of-15 free throws, finished with 14 points apiece. Michaels grabbed eight rebounds while Duckworth handed out three assists.
Thompson, who had 12 points, made five of his seven shots from the floor, including one of two from the 3-point line. Mounier added five points and four boards.
Wheaton made 61.9 percent of its field goal attempts (13-21) in building its first-half lead. The Thunder edged Whitman on the backboards (34-31) and blocked four shots.
Whitman, which had averaged a dozen 3-point baskets in winning its four previous games, cooled off considerably against Wheaton. The Missionaries made three of eight from long range in the first half before missing all eight attempts over the final 20 minutes.
Neither side helped itself at the free throw line. Whitman was 13 of 22 while Wheaton was 12 of 20.
After a holiday break, Whitman plays its final non-conference game of the season on Dec. 30, against Calvin College, another NCAA DIII school from Grand Rapids, Mich.
That neutral-site game starts at 7 p.m. in Lynden, Wash.
WHEATON COLLEGE 60, WHITMAN 50
WHEATON COLLEGE (8-2) - Schultze, Spencer 4-6 3-4 11; McCrary, Tim 5-6 0-2 10; Pflederer, Jeremy 3-6 2-4 9; Peters, Tyler 3-5 1-1 9; Haynes, Nathan 2-4 3-4 7; Garriott, Aaron 2-8 2-4 6; Smith, Peter 1-3 1-1 3; Fisher, Tad 1-3 0-0 3; Serenius, Nate 1-6 0-0 2; Berglund, Billy 0-0 0-0 0; DeMoss, Caleb 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-47 12-20 60.
WHITMAN (7-3) - Duckworth, Josh 5-11 4-6 14; Michaels, David 4-10 6-9 14; Thompson, LuQuam 5-7 1-1 12; Mounier, Matt 1-3 2-2 5; Dickson, Jordan 1-1 0-0 3; Eisenhardt, Ben 1-3 0-0 2; Wright, D.J. 0-1 0-0 0; Raher, Drew 0-3 0-0 0; Gilkey, Ryan 0-2 0-0 0; Pavilonis, Ignas 0-3 0-0 0; Shaw, Brandon 0-1 0-4 0; Clark, Peter 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 13-22 50.
Halftime score - Wheaton 34, Whitman 27. 3-point goals - Wheaton 4-13 (Peters, Tyler 2-2; Fisher, Tad 1-3; Pflederer, Jeremy 1-2; Garriott, Aaron 0-3; Serenius, Nate 0-3), Whit 3-16 (Dickson, Jordan 1-1; Thompson, LuQuam 1-2; Mounier, Matt 1-1; Raher, Drew 0-1; Pavilonis, Ignas 0-3; Clark, Peter 0-3; Eisenhardt, Ben 0-1; Michaels, David 0-2; Duckworth, Josh 0-2). Fouled out - Wheaton - None, Whit - Michaels, David. Rebounds - Wheaton 35 (Schultze, Spencer 8), Whit 31 (Michaels, David 8). Assists - Wheaton 16 (Garriott, Aaron 6), Whit 5 (Duckworth, Josh 3). Total fouls - Wheaton 22, Whit 23. Technical fouls - Wheaton - None, Whit - None. A - 205.