LeTourneau keeps it close but falls to Whitworth in opening round of NCAA DIII tourney

Friday Hoops Fever

RICHARDSON, Texas (KETK) – The LeTourneau Yellow Jackets made their second trip in three years – and in school history – to the NCAA Division III tournament, where they played the Whitworth Pirates.

The Jackets hung tough and kept it close, with Nate West confounding defenders again and again to the tune of 51 points. In the end, though, the Pirates just managed to pull out the win, edging past the Jackets 88-86.

Watch the video for game highlights.

RICHARDSON, Texas (LeTourneau Athletics) – On a night Nate West broke one school record and tied another, LeTourneau University men’s basketball team’s season came to an end.

LeTourneau lost to Whitworth, 88-86, Friday in the opening round of the NCAA Division III Tournament at the University of Texas at Dallas. West scored 51 points to break Terry Zeitlow’s 1985-86 single season school record of 817 points. West finished the season with 830 points. He tied Zeitlow’s career scoring mark of 2,393 points. But his 51 in this game wasn’t enough to send the YellowJackets (23-6) on to the second round.

“Whitworth is a great team, but our guys never gave up,” LeTourneau coach Dan Miller said.

Whitworth (22-6) led by as many as 15 in both halves. The Pirates went ahead 34-19 with 5:27 to play in the first half, following a layup by Garrett Hull. West scored in transition with 3:12 to play to cap a 6-0 run that pulled the Jackets within nine. After Ben College scored for the Pirates, John Argue had two buckets in the paint to pull LETU within seven. The YellowJackets trailed at halftime, 38-31.

The Jackets shot 33 percent in the first half. The Pirates shot 47 percent. LETU was just 1 of 16 from three-point range in the half. Whitworth was 6 of 15.

“The first half we really just struggled shooting,” Miller said. “We felt like we left a lot of points out there.”

Justin Moore’s lay-in 1:31 into the second half pulled the YellowJackets within five, but the Pirates built their lead back to 61-46 at the 10:31 mark. West hit a layup with 5:01 remaining as LeTourneau cut it to 71-62, but Whitworth traded baskets with LETU over the next two minutes to remain in front. Liam Fitzgerald sank two free throws with 2:12 remaining as the Pirates went up 78-66. Then West hit a three-pointer and a layup as the Jackets pulled within 80-71 at the 1:15 mark.

West hit a driving layup with 45 seconds to play to pull the YellowJackets within six. After College split a pair at the free throw line, West buried a triple, was fouled and sank the free throw to cut it to 82-79 with 38 seconds remaining. Hull sank two free throws on the Pirates’ next possession before West scored on the other end to keep it a three-point game. College sank two more free throws before West hit another 3 to cut it to 86-84 with 20 seconds to go. After Hull missed two free throws, West scored with seven seconds left to tie it. But Isaiah Hernandez hit a layup with a second remaining, and the Pirates held on.

LETU shot 46 percent in the second half. Whitworth hit 50 percent of its field goals after the break.

LeTourneau outscored Whitworth, 25-11, in transition. The YellowJackets had 52 points in the paint, while the Pirates had 42.

College scored 33 points, and had six rebounds. Hernandez added 20 points. West was 18 of 39 from the floor and 10 of 12 at the free throw line. He added five rebounds in his final college game. Moore finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Eberhardt had eight points and four rebounds, and Argue had eight points and eight boards.

“We’re losing a great player in Nate West, but at the same time, he left his legacy there,” Moore said. “So it’s something we have to carry, continue to work hard, and we can come back here.”

West finished the season with 208 assists, which is second in school history.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” West said. “I made a lot of brothers on my teams. I just had a lot of good relationships.”

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