Missionaries step on Banana Slugs

Whitman College's Matt Mounier (left) and Ben Eisenhardt (right) sandwich UC Santa Cruz's Jared Ponce  during the first half of their game Thursday evening, November 29, 2012 in Walla Walla.

Whitman College's Matt Mounier (left) and Ben Eisenhardt (right) sandwich UC Santa Cruz's Jared Ponce during the first half of their game Thursday evening, November 29, 2012 in Walla Walla. MATTHEW ZIMMERMAN BANDERAS

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WALLA WALLA — The Whitman Missionaries men’s basketball team stormed George Ball Court at Sherwood Center Thursday night, grabbing a 20-4 lead over UC Santa Cruz with 12 minutes remaining in the first half.

Whitman went on to win 87-65.

Ben Eisenhardt, who scored 23 points, led the early Missionary run with six points, while Josh Duckworth and Ryan Gilkey added four apiece in the attack.

Duckworth finished the game with 20 points. Gilkey added 12 points and a team-high seven boards in the game.

The Missionaries’ lead swooned to 23-6 before the Banana Slugs hit a barrage of 3-pointers — three in a row — to cut the lead to seven with nine minutes remaining in that first half.

Whitman woke up and matched UC Santa Cruz bucket-for-bucket the rest of the first half and took the eight-point lead at 37-29, going into the intermission.

“We responded well in the first half after they cut the lead to seven,” Missionaries coach Eric Bridgeland said. “That was a good growth point for us. We were frustrated and flustered, but we started to turn that around by playing possession by possession.”

A stronger Whitman team stepped up in the second half, scoring 50 points to just 36 by the Slugs.

The closest that the Banana Slugs could get in the second half was at the 16-minute mark, when they trailed by only three at 42-39. The Slugs edged closer on three more 3-pointers to only one free throw by Whitman.

The Missionaries started stretching the lead on an offensive rebound and put-back by Ryan Gilkey with eight minutes left. It was 63-49 and the Slugs could get no closer.

The Whits went on a 12-3 run to take a commanding 23-point lead with 5:19 remaining.

“I was happy with how the team responded in the second half,” Bridgeland said. “We were a little upset early in the second half and we turned it around by playing in the moment. We didn’t have a great shooting night, but we found a way to win.”

Whitman (4-2 non-conference) open Northwest Conference play Dec. 7-8, at home versus Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran.

WHITMAN 87, UC SANTA CRUZ 65

SANTA CRUZ (65) — Ponce, M. 2-3 1-2 7, Reeves 5-8 8-`0 21, Ponce, J. 0-4 2-2 2, Townsend 3-9 2-6 9, Wells 3-12 0-0 8, Hidalgo 2-3 0-0 5, Holler 0-0 0-0 0, Arnwine Jr. 0-3 0-2 0, Steadman 2-4 2-3 6, Ponce, T. 3-5 0-0 7. Totals – 20-51 15-25 65.

WHITMAN (87) — Mounier 1-4 4-4 6, Eisenhardt 7-12 8-12 23, Duckworth 7-12 6-8 20, Clark 1-5 0-0 3, Raher 1-2 2-2 4, Callahan 1-2 0-0 2, Pavilonis 1-7 0-0 3, Lippi 1-3 1-3 3, Oti 4-9 0-2 10, Durham 0-0 1-2 1, Outzen 0-0 0-0 0, Martin 0-0 0-0 0, Gilkey 5-7 2-4 12. Totals – 29-63 24-37 87.

Halftime score — Whit 37-29. 3-point goals — SC 10-21 (Ponce, M. 2-2, Reeves 3-5, Ponce, J. 0-3, Townsend 1-1, Wells 2-5, Hidalgo 1-2, Arnwine Jr. 0-1, Ponce, T. 1-2); Whit 5-20 (Mounier 0-2, Eisenhardt 1-2, clark 1-5, Raher 0-1, Callahan 0-1, Pavilonis 1-5, Lippi 0-1, Oti 2-3). Total fouls — SC 30, Whit 21. Fouled out — SC (Ponce, J., Wells). Technical fouls — SC (Wells); Whit (Mounier). Rebounds — SC 39 (Townsend 6), Whit 38 (Gilkey 7). Assists — SC 12 (Wells 5); Whit 12 (Mounier 2, Eisenhardt 2, Duckworth 2, Lippi 2). Turnovers — SC 26, Whit 10.

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