WALLA WALLA, Wash. - March began...and the march began. Joey Hewitt scored a game-high 24 points to go along with seven rebounds, Jack Stewart added 20 more and the No. 2 Whitman College men's basketball team opened the 2019 NCAA Tournament with a confident 102-79 win over Texas Lutheran, Friday night at the Sherwood Center.
Jase Harrison gave the Blues (27-1) a huge spark off the bench, adding six points and posting four steals, two within a one-minute span as part of a 10-0 Whitman run. Darne Duckett added 17 points and Cedric Jacobs-Jones contributed 10 points and six rebounds.
The win sets the stage for an early tournament heavyweight matchup as the Blues host No. 11 Pomona-Pitzer (26-2) in an NCAA second round matchup on Saturday. The Sagehens topped UT Dallas in the first match of the evening and their early season win over the Blues stands as the one blemish in an otherwise perfect Whitman record.
Alex Cage was the high scorer for the Bulldogs (18-10) with Shawn Hamilton adding six points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
It wasn't a lights-out shooting performance from the Blues (35% from three) but a 50-31 advantage on the boards and a 34-15 fast break point disparity told the tale. The Blues more than doubled up TLU in second chance points and capitalized on 19 Bulldog turnovers.
Whitman got off to a quick start as back-to-back Jacobs-Jones buckets gave his team a 9-3 lead less than two minutes into the game. TLU would settle down and take its first lead at 15-14 on consecutive baskets from Jamir Mason.
The game remained tight until the Blues delivered the game's first big run. Harrison came alive, hitting on a jumper then exciting the crowd with a pair of steals leading to easy buckets for himself and Duckett. Stewart capped the run with a three pointer and the Blues led 33-23 with 4:33 to play in the first half.
Whitman headed to halftime with a nine-point lead, but turned it on early in the second half to set the stage for the blowout. The Blues ran off 14 straight points to push the lead to 22 in the blink of an eye. Hewitt caught fire, seemingly scoring at will from three point land and inside the paint. When it was all said and done, Whitman led 62-40 with 13:53 to play in the game.
The lead tinkered in and around 20 points the rest of the way as the Blues cruised to the win and a date with the Sagehens tomorrow night.
Tickets are still available and will go on sale at the Sherwood Center from 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Tipoff vs. Pomona-Pitzer is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.