FOREST GROVE, Ore. - Down by seven at halftime but up by seven at the end, Whitman College stayed within reach of second place in the Northwest Conference standings with a 78-71 men's basketball victory over Pacific Friday night in Forest Grove, Ore.
Whitman ran its NWC record to 9-4 (16-6 overall) while dropping Pacific to 3-10 in conference and 9-13 on the season.
The resilient Missionaries need a victory Saturday night at Linfield to pull into a second-place tie with Puget Sound, which knocked off George Fox tonight to elevate its record to 10-4 and 18-5.
Pacific made life miserable for Whitman in the first half, striking eight times from the 3-point arc in building a 37-30 lead at intermission.
But Whitman opened the second stanza with 3-point bombs from junior Peter Clark and senior David Michaels to regain some momentum. A Michaels jumper and two free throws by sophomore LuQuam Thompson helped offset another Boxer three and forge a 40-40 deadlock.
Pacific's 10th and final 3-pointer of the night put the Boxers back in front by six, 48-42, with just under 14 minutes left to play.
Whitman responded with eight straight points. Sophomore Ben Eisenhardt finished a three-point play inside, Clark hit again from long distance and senior Brandon Shaw turned a steal into a layup.
After Colin Wester's jumper created the night's final tie at 50-50 with 11:30 left, Thompson scored at the other end and Whitman stayed in front the rest of the way.
Threes by Thompson and Michaels helped the Missionaries nurse their lead along until the 6-foot-10 Eisenhardt was fouled while slamming down a dunk. Eisenhardt added the free throw for a 66-58 Whitman lead with 5:49 left.
Michaels drilled his third three of the game at the 4:12 mark to restore an eight-point cushion. The Missionaries then hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold off the Boxers.
Michaels, the second-leading scorer in the NWC, finished with a game-high 22 points. Eisenhardt was good for 14 points and eight rebounds while Thompson scored 12 points.
Drew Raher, a junior who leads the NWC in 3-point accuracy, canned both of his long-distance attempts en route to nine points and five rebounds. Clark also had nine points on a trio of 3-pointers.
Wester led Pacific with 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals. The Boxers also got 18 points from David Berney and 10 more from Coby Proctor.
Whitman downed Pacific 81-66 earlier this season in Walla Walla.
After Saturday's games, the NWC heads to the final week of the regular season, after which the top four teams advance to the conference playoffs.
While Whitman can catch Puget Sound for second place Saturday, fourth-place George Fox remains in the mix with an 8-5 conference mark (11-11 overall). The Bruins play Saturday night at Willamette (2-11 NWC, 4-18).
Pacific Lutheran (7-6 NWC, 10-12) plays Saturday at Lewis & Clark (6-7 NWC, 11-11).
Whitman 78, Pacific 71
WHITMAN (78) - Michaels 5-8 9-13 22, Raher 2-2 3-6 9, Shaw 2-5 2-2 6, Thompson 3-10 5-8 12, Clark 3-5 0-0 9, Mounier 0-0 6-6 6, Eisenhardt 4-7 0-0 17, Dickson 0-2 0-0 0, Pavilonis, 0-4 0-0 0, Wright 0-0 0-0 0, Gilkey 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-43 31-41 78.
PACIFIC (71) - Mosley 3-6 0-0 4, Bowser 1-2 5-8 7, Proctor 4-12 0-1 10, Wester 6-14 5-7 19, Berney 6-10 2-3 18, Hayes 0-0 0-0 0, Devlin 0-0 0-0 0, Burns 1-2 0-0 3, Eppinger 1-2 1-2 4, Wettig 2-2 0-0 4, Babek 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 13-21 71.
Halftime - Pac 37-30. 3-point goals - Whit 9 (Michaels 3, Clark 3), Pac 10 (Berney 4). Total fouls-Whit 23, Pac 29. Fouled out-Whit (Michaels), Pac (Bowser, Proctor). Technical fouls-Pac (Mosley, Wester). Rebounds-Whit 29 (Eisenhardt 8), Pac 30 (Bowser 8). Turnovers-Whit 18, Pac 20. Assists-Whit 5 (Michaels 2, Thompson 2), Pac 16 (Wester 5).