No. 2 Blues Turn Back No. 11 Pomona-Pitzer, Advance To Sweet 16

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WALLA WALLA, Wash. - The Blues entered tonight's NCAA second round game with one mark on an otherwise unblemished record to this point, a mark labeled with a loss to Pomona-Pitzer. The Whitman College men's basketball team exacted a bit of revenge tonight, riding an intense defensive effort to an 83-74 win over the aforementioned Sagehens, Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

In front of sold out Sherwood Center audience, the Whitman faithful witnessed a less than average shooting performance from the Blues (28-1) but a defensive intensity that has become the hallmark of the team's success in recent weeks.

Austin Butler and Joey Hewitt both turned in a team-high 18 points with Hewitt adding eight rebounds and Butler chipping in five rebounds and a game-high five steals. 

Daniel Rosenbaum led all scorers, putting up 20 points for Pomona-Pitzer who closes its season at 26-3. Alex Preston scored 14 points on a near perfect 7-8 shooting with James Kelbert adding 13 points off the bench.

Darne Duckett added 11 points and, along with Butler's defense, was the catalyst in a 15-3 run early in the second half. Duckett heated up from the floor with Butler turning steals into fastbreak layups as the Blues began to put some separation between themselves and the Sagehens.

Hewitt, who did not have a great shooting night by his standards, came alive hitting back-to-back three pointers to extend the lead to 18 points. Jaron Kirkley then added a corner three and Butler converted an and-one three point play to lift the lead to 20 points with 3:36 to play.

The Sagehens would not go away quietly though. Consecutive buckets from both Preston and Jack Boyle helped Pomona-Pitzer reel off 11 straight points and cut the lead to nine with 1:24 remaining. The mountain would prove to be too tall to climb for the Sagehens who came up short while the Blues season continued.

All five Blues starters posted double figures in points as Jack Stewart and Cedric Jacobs-Jones both chipped in 10 points.

Neither team could find their shooting rhythm in the first half but it was Pomona-Pitzer who continued to lead. A pair of Preston baskets and another from Rosenbaum extended the lead to eight points late in the period, but the Blues put together a nice run to close the half. Butler's layup and a straightaway three pointer from Stewart quickly shaved the lead to two points which would be the differential heading into the locker rooms.

Armed with a rabid crowd and renewed vigor, the Blues found their stride early in second half, seizing the momentum that would eventually carry them to victory.

With the NCAA unlikely to name Whitman as a host site for the regional rounds, the Blues will travel to either Williams, Christopher Newport or Hamilton who all won their second round matchups.