February 13, 2012

NWC Champion Bucs to Close Regular Season

SPOKANE, Wash. – There is still much on the line for the Whitworth University men's basketball team this week despite the fact that the Pirates have already clinched the regular season Northwest Conference championship and the NWC's top seed in the upcoming conference tournament with still a full week to play.  Regional rankings and other key factors heading into the post-season are on the line when the Bucs play at Whitman College on Tuesday night and at home against Willamette University on Saturday.  Both games are scheduled to tip off at 8:00 p.m. as the second half of women's and men's NWC doubleheaders.

Both games can be heard live in the Spokane area on KSBN 1230am and world-wide on the internet on KSBN.net.

Whitworth is 20-3 overall record, 13-1 in the NWC, and ranked 10th in the latest D3hoops.com poll.  The Pirates clinched their third straight NWC regular season championship (and fifth in the last six years) with wins at Linfield and Pacific (Ore.) last weekend.  Whitworth has also clinched its seventh straight 20-win season, extending the school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories.

The Pirates: Whitworth put on a clinic of offensive efficiency in the 95-67 win at Linfield last Friday night.  Seven different Pirates reached double figures in scoring and the team made over 60% of its shots from the field and from three-point range.  Whitworth outrebounded the Wildcats 28-21 and also forced a dozen turnovers.  Colton McCargar had a breakthrough game for the Pirates, hitting 5-7 from three-point range to tie Idris Lasisi for team scoring honors with 15 points apiece.  Mack Larkin had 13 points, as did Jack Loofburrow off of the bench.  Felix Friedt, Dustin McConnell and Austin Ehlo all scored 10 points.  Whitworth has now won the last eight meetings with Linfield.

Whitworth played a very sharp first half and then cruised to a 76-54 win at Pacific on Saturday night.  The Pirates built a 48-25 lead at halftime, thanks to 64% shooting from the field in the first half – 50% from three-point range.  Whitworth led by as many as 30 points early in the second half before the Boxers rallied to within 19 with eight minutes to go.  But Idris Lasisi answered with a three-pointer and that rally fizzled.  Lasisi scored 24 points to lead all players, while Loofburrow had 14 points and Wade Gebbers added 10 points and dished five assists.  Whitworth has now won the last eight meetings with Pacific.

National Ranking: Whitworth is ranked 10th in this week's D3hoops.com top 25 poll.  The Pirates dropped from 9th in the previous poll despite two road wins. Going back to the 2009-10 season, the Bucs have been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 32 consecutive polls. Last winter Whitworth reached #1 in the D3hoops.com poll twice, becoming the first school west of St. Paul, Minnesota to ever ascend to the top of the D3hoops.com national rankings.

NWC Title: With a three-game lead in the standings over both Puget Sound and Whitman, Whitworth has clinched the regular season NWC championship. The conference championship is the Pirates' third in a row and fifth in the last six years. Whitworth has now won a total of 14 Northwest Conference titles in men's basketball (since rejoining the league in 1982).

NWC Tournament History: Heading into the NWC playoffs next Feb. 23-25, there have been 15 conference tournaments since the NWC (then the NCIC) first began a league playoff following the 1993-94 season. Whitworth has competed in 14 of those tournaments, two ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 12-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last seven tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have appeared in the championship game nine times and have won seven times: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Bucs did not qualify is 2000.

Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted Felix Friedt, Wade Gebbers and Michael Taylor as team captains for the 2011-12 season.

Stat Leaders: Whitworth ranks first or second as a team in several key NWC statistical categories:
Team Field Goal % - 49.8 (1st NWC / 8th NCAA DIII)
Team Free Throw % - 80.1 (1st NWC / 2nd NCAA DIII)
Team 3-Pt % - 40.4 (1st NWC / 10th NCAA DIII)
Points Per Game – 77.4 (2nd NWC / 63rd NCAA DIII)
3-pointers made per game – 9.6 (1st / 9th NCAA DIII)
Turnovers per game – 11.2 (2nd NWC / 13th NCAA DIII)
Assists per game – 13.4 (2nd NWC)

Date

Time

Game

Live Coverage

Feb. 14

8:00 pm

At Whitman

Live stats / Audio

Feb. 18

8:00 pm

vs. Willamette

Live Stats / Live Video

The Opponents: Whitman College (17-6 overall, 10-4 NWC) is in a tight battle with Puget Sound (18-5, 10-4) for second place in the NWC standings and the right to host a semifinal in the upcoming conference tournament.  Last weekend the Missionaries won 78-71 at Pacific on Friday then rolled to an 87-60 win at Linfield on Saturday.  Whitman averages 74.3 points per game and leads the league in steals (8.7 per game) and is second in rebound margin (+4.7).  Senior forward David Michaels has thrust himself into the NWC Player of the Year discussion.  He is second in the NWC in scoring average (19.4 ppg) and makes 48% of his three-point tries while grabbing 5.8 rebounds per game.  Junior forward Drew Raher leads the NWC in three-point percentage (54%) and scores 6.0 points.  Sophomore guard Josh Duckworth scores 8.3 points per game and twice this season has scored a game-winning basket as time expired.  Whitman handed Whitworth its only NWC loss this season, beating the Pirates 77-66 in Spokane on January 17th despite 26 points by Whitworth's Wade Gebbers.

Willamette University is finishing the season on a very positive note.  The Bearcats are 5-18 overall and 3-11 in the NWC heading into their Friday night game at Whitman, but have won three of their last four contests.  Last weekend Willamette beat Lewis & Clark 79-70 on Thursday and George Fox 77-75 on Saturday.  The Bearcats average 73.7 points and rank first in the NWC in blocks per game (3.4) and second in steals per game (7.9).  Senior wing Taylor Mounts has put together an All-NWC type season, averaging 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game to rank third in the conference in both categories.  Junior guard Terrell Malley adds 12.5 points and senior wing Ryan Meehan scores 11.9 points per game.  Whitworth defeated Willamette 83-69 on January 20th in Salem behind 23 points by Idris Lasisi.

Rolling On: It's not exactly a streak, but the Bucs have won 73 of their last 80 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 48 of its last 50 – including the four wins from the last two NWC tournaments.

Home-Sweet-Home: Whitworth has been stellar in the Fieldhouse throughout the 1990's and 2000's. Since the 2001-02 season the Pirates are 110-12 (.902) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 77-5 (.939) at home. During the decade of the 1990s the Pirates won more than 80% of their games played at home.

The 41-game home court winning streak from 2009 until this December was the second-longest in Pirate history. The school record for consecutive home victories is 43, beginning during the 1994-95 season and ending during the 1997-98 season.

Learning (and winning) Against Legends: Whitworth's Matt Logie is in his first season as a head coach. Logie might have set a new standard for trial by fire as three of the first four coaches he went up against have combined for 69 years of head coaching experience and more than 1,170 victories. But Logie led the Pirates to victory against Chapman's Mike Bokosky (20 years), Cal Lutheran's Rich Rider (18 years) and Washington University's Mark Edwards (31 years).

Herr Friedt: Since his sophomore year Felix Friedt has supplied the strong, inside presence that the Pirates need to balance their outside shooting. So far this season he is leading the team in scoring average (16.1 ppg – 4th in the NWC), while making 59.7% of his shots from the field (3rd in the NWC). He currently is second in the Northwest Conference in rebounding average (8.4).   Friedt devastates opponents by drawing fouls and making free throws.  Not only is he third in the NWC in free throw percentage (81.5%), he has made more free throws (138) than all but one other player in the league has even attempted.  He been named NWC Men's Basketball Student-Athlete of the Week twice – first on December 6th and then on January 10th.  Friedt leads the conference with ten double-doubles this season.  He has 997 career points and will become the 22nd player in Whitworth history to surpass the 1,000 career point total sometime this week. 

A Second Team All-NWC selection in 2011, Friedt made 59.9% of his shots from the field last year, which was third in the NWC, and 81.8% of his free throws (also 3rd in the conference) while averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per game (4th in the NWC). Friedt scored a career-high 27 points on January 8th vs. Puget Sound, then followed that up with 24 points and 14 points against the Loggers on February 4th.

Also, Friedt became only the second Academic All-American in Whitworth men's basketball history in 2011. He was selected to the Capital One Academic All-America® Men's Basketball College Division Third Team, the first Pirate chosen since Bryan Depew in 2004.

Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers is one of Whitworth's leading scorers so far this season, averaging 14.3 points per game (9th in the NWC).  He leads the team in assists per game (3.4), which ranks third in the NWC and he also has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.84-1.  Gebbers leads the league in three-pointers made per game (3.1 – 17th in NCAA Div. III) and ranks third in the league in three-point percentage (45.0 – 12th in NCAA Div. III).  He scored a career-high 26 points on January 17th against Whitman.

Last season Gebbers averaged 3.35 assists per game (5th in the NWC) and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.07 - 1 was third highest in the league. He scored a season-high 20 points on Feb. 12, 2011 against George Fox, all in the second half, to lead Whitworth back from a three-point halftime deficit to an 89-66 win.

Belgian Burner: Idris Lasisi, a fourth-year transfer from North Idaho College, is making a big impact in his only season with the Pirates, averaging 16.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. His scoring average is fifth in the NWC.  He also leads the team in steals (31).  Lasisi scored a season-high 25 points in Whitworth's game against nationally-ranked Wisconsin-Whitewater on December 21st.

Instant Ignition: Jack Loofburrow is working his way back into the regular rotation and has come alive over the last two weeks with 59 total points off of the bench.  He had been sidelined with a foot injury since early December.   In 13 games he has averaged 8.7 points, but he can heat up and score quickly as he demonstrated in the win over Pacific Lutheran (21 points, 5-6 from 3-pt range) and in the second half of the December 3rd win over George Fox (12 points scored after halftime). The 6'-7" senior also adds 4.3 rebounds per game.

Last season he earned honorable mention All-NWC honors, despite coming off of the bench in most games. He averaged 12.1 points per game while making 45.9% (5th in the NWC) of his three-point attempts. He torched PLU for eight three-pointers last February 5th to tie the previous school record for threes in a game and tie his own career high for points (31). Just as impressive was the rebounding with an average of 6.0 (12th in the NWC) rebounds per game and he averaged 0.82 blocks per contest (3rd in the NWC). He scored a career-high 31 points while making 13 of 14 shots from the floor in a win over Colorado College on December 29, 2010.

The Next Glue Guy: Successful Whitworth teams have always had the unsung hero who does all the little things that help the team succeed, but don't always show up in the box scores. In recent years that role has been filled by the likes of Clay Gebbers ('11), Calvin Jurich ('09), and Mike Larkin ('05). This season Mack Larkin has stepped into that role. Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. And he has added 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds with 34 assists and 16 steals this season.  Larkin missed four games in early January after suffering a mild concussion in practice.  He returned for the Whitman game.

Four SWX Broadcasts: The February 3rd game against Puget Sound was the fourth of four games carried live this season by local cable station SWX. SWX stands for Sports & Weather Right Now and is owned by local NBC affiliate KHQ channel 6. SWX can be seen both over-the-air and through some cable services in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, and Yakima viewership areas. In the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area, SWX is found on digital channel 6.2, on Comcast channel 115 in Spokane and Time Warner channel 306 in North Idaho.

Coming up Next Week: Whitworth will be the top seed in the 2012 NWC tournament.  That is the only part of the tournament that has been determined.  Semifinals will take place on February 23rd at the homes of the top two seeds.  The NWC tournament final is Saturday, Feb. 25th at the location of the highest remaining seed.  Games are scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m.

The Coach: Matt Logie is in his first season as head men's basketball coach at Whitworth. He previously worked eight seasons as an assistant coach at Lehigh University (Pa.) his alma-mater. He also spent a season as an assistant coach at Kent State. In 2010 Logie was named as the top Patriot League Assistant Coach in men's basketball in a Foxsports.com Coaches Poll and in 2011 he was recognized as one of the top 50 assistants in Mid-to-Low Major college basketball by Hoopscoop on-line magazine. Logie is originally from Mercer Island, Washington where he won a pair of state basketball championships while playing for his grandfather, Ed Pepple, a legend in Washington's high school ranks who won 952 games and four state titles in 49 years of coaching.

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