WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers took a lead into halftime in Saturday's 79-72 loss to the No. 1-ranked Whitman Blues. Ultimately, a season-high 29 turnovers led to 28 points for Whitman and thwarted the Pios' upset bid at Sherwood Athletic Center.
The Pioneers used an 8-0 run at the end of the first half to lead 38-37 at the break. The lead changed hands seven times in the game, with Whitman going ahead about four minutes into the second half. Despite trailing by 14 points, the Pios were within two possessions in the final minute.
"I think we're really proud of ourselves," said sophomore Zeke Crawford, who finished with a double-double. "We came up here, we battled, we knew exactly what we had to do and the guys in the locker room know exactly what we need to do to fix those mistakes. Overall, we're keeping our heads high and we're moving forward."
Including Friday's 98-91 loss to No. 8 Whitworth, the Pioneers play three-straight games against the teams picked to finish in the top 3 based on the Northwest Conference preseason coaches poll to start 2018. Lewis & Clark's opponent on Friday, Linfield, was picked third behind Whitman and Whitworth.
Crawford scored 13 points and had 11 rebounds for his second career double-double. Kyle Owens led the Pioneers with 17 points on 4 of 8 shooting from 3-point range and 50 percent overall. Andrew Vickers and Nico Bricker had 12 points apiece and combined for eight rebounds. Vickers added a game-high five assists.
"As always, Vickers is our rock. He holds us down. He's always composed and I try to feed off his energy," said Crawford.
Vickers had assists on two scores by Owens that gave the Pioneers an early 10-4 lead. Lewis & Clark made 10 of its first 14 shots through the game's first nine minutes, including a 5 for 9 effort from beyond the arc.
After Mak Hutson's layup gave the Pioneers a 12-6 lead, Whitman started getting shots to fall. Even with the Pioneers making 54 percent of their shots in the first half, the Blues made 43 percent and picked up seven first-half points apiece from Darne Duckett and Jaron Kirkley off the bench. Whitman finished the game with a 31-14 edge in bench scoring.
Whitman (13-0; 4-0 NWC) broke a 17-17 tie to lead 37-30 with 2:36 remaining in the first half. The teams went on lengthy droughts in the later stages of the first half, with both going about three minutes without a field goal.
Much like in the first half, however, turnovers were a factor. The Blues scored 17 of their 28 points off turnovers in the second half on 14 giveaways by the Pios in the final 20 minutes.
"Turnovers was a big thing we talked about," said Crawford. "It all comes back to the fundamentals. We played too rushed and felt the pressure, so we're going to get back in the lab and work on our fundamentals."
Lewis & Clark falls to 4-9 overall and 0-4 in the NWC. The Pioneers will seek their first conference victory on Friday against Linfield. The game begins at 8 p.m. at Pamplin Sports Center.