Whitworth Set to Open Conference Play With PLU and UPS

SPOKANE, Wash. – Whitworth will begin Northwest Conference play in men's basketball this week when the Pirates host Pacific Lutheran University on Friday night and Puget Sound on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse.  Both games tip off at 8:00 p.m. and the Saturday contest against UPS will be the first SWX broadcast of the season.

Live links for this weekend's games:

Click here for live video

Click here for the KSBN audio broadcast

Click here for the W.fm student broadcast

Click here for live statistics

Canned Food Drive on Saturday: Whitworth's Club Life is holding a canned food drive during Saturday night's basketball doubleheader against Puget Sound.  Fans who bring two cans of food will get free admission.  Fans who bring canned food will also be entered into a raffle for prizes that will be awarded during the men's game.

The Pirates: In the span of four days 20th-ranked Whitworth (3-1) put together its best offensive and best defensive performances of the season in wins over Montana Tech and UC Santa Cruz.

The Pirates picked up their first road win of the season last Wednesday with a 90-75 victory at NAIA Div. I Montana Tech.  Whitworth jumped out to an early lead thanks to some hot shooting from beyond the three-point line and never looked back.  The Bucs held a double-digit lead from five minutes on.  Whitworth shot 61% (34-56) from the field and 59% (16-27) from three-point range in the victory.  George Valle scored 23 points to lead the Pirates in only the third game of his career.  He hit 9-12 from the floor, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.  Dustin McConnell scored 15 points and dished a career-high seven assists.  Mack Larkin added 12 points and six rebounds, while Colton McCargar also scored 12 points.  Both hit four three-pointers to account for all of their scoring.

Three nights later the Pirates put together their best defensive performance of the season in a 61-48 win over visiting UC Santa Cruz.  Whitworth held an opponent to season lows for points allowed and shooting percentage from the field (36%) and three-point range (24%).  UCSC gave a strong defensive effort as well and it took the Pirates a while to pull away from the pesky Banana Slugs.  The win was Whitworth's 12th in a row over UCSC.  George Valle was the only Pirate to reach double figures and he scored 12 of his 17 points in the second half.  McCargar had another strong game with eight points and a career-high nine rebounds.  McConnell dished six assists to go along with six points and five boards.

Perhaps the best news for the Pirates is that the team was able to pick up two victories without All-Northwest Conference guard Wade Gebbers, who did not play in either contest.

The Opponents: Pacific Lutheran comes into the weeked with a record of 2-5 following Monday night's 67-47 home win over St. Scholastica. Friday's game will also be the NWC opener for the Lutes. PLU has some "good" losses to go along with their 76-45 win over Evergreen State on Nov. 23rd.  But PLU has some "good" losses to go along with their 76-45 win over Evergreen State on Nov. 23rd.  On Nov. 21 the Lutes hung with NCAA Div. I Seattle University to the very end before falling 58-49.  And on Nov. 24th PLU gave unbeaten and highly-ranked Eastern Oregon (NAIA DII) all it could handle before losing 51-48. 

The Lutes lead the NWC in defensive scoring average (62.0 ppg allowed) and are second in the conference in steals per game (8.3).  Senior wing Cameron Schilling averages 12.4 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per contest.  Senior guard Andrew Earnest adds 10.2 ppg and makes 44% of his three-pointers while shooting a high volume.

Last year the Lutes gave the Pirates two very difficult tests.  Whitworth won at PLU 103-94 in overtime in early January, then the Pirates held on for an 82-80 win in Spokane.  Whitworth has won the last 14 meetings between the teams.

Puget Sound is 1-3 heading into a Dec. 4th match-up with St. Scholastica and a Friday night NWC contest at Whitman.  The Loggers fell 74-66 to Evergreen State in their most recent game on November 24th.  They won their season opener 85-82 over New Hope Christian. 

UPS continues to run an up-tempo, high-pressure attack.  The system allows the Loggers to get to the free throw line often and they average 22 free throws per game (2nd in the NWC).  UPS also plays a deep bench with 11 different players averaging at least ten minutes per game.  Senior forward Riggs Yarbro leads the team in scoring average at 11.0 ppg, despite coming off of the bench in every contest so far this season.  Sophomore Derek Jobe is the only other Logger averaging double figures in scoring (10.0).

Whitworth topped UPS three times last season.  The Pirates won 80-67 in Tacoma, then pulled away for a 78-59 victory in Spokane.  The teams would meet up again in the NWC tournament championship game in Spokane and Whitworth beat Puget Sound 86-71.  The Pirates have won the last seven against the Loggers.

National Raking: Despite two victories Whitworth dropped from 15th to 20th in the in th D3hoops.com top 25 poll released on December 3rd, 2012. The Pirates had been 14th in the preseason poll. Going back to the 2009-10 season, the Bucs have been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 37 consecutive polls.

NWC Favorites: Whitworth was picked first in the Northwest Conference preseason coaches poll.  The Pirates picked up seven of nine first place votes and 70 total points.  Whitman was second in the poll with two first place votes and 54 points.

Four SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry four Whitworth men's basketball games live this season: Dec. 8 vs. Puget Sound; Dec. 22 vs. Simpson; Jan. 18 vs. Willamette; and Feb. 1 vs. Lewis & Clark. 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. Click here for a complete list of station numbers throughout the Eastern Washington/North Idaho region.

Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted Wade Gebbers, Mack Larkin and Zach Payne as team captains for the 2012-13 season.  It is the second season in a row that Gebbers has been voted as a team captain.

Twenty for Seven: Whitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to seven in a row in 2011-12.  Prior to this current streak, the most 20-win seasons in a row the Pirates had ever had was two (on three different occasions).

Rolling On: The Bucs have won 82 of their last 91 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 52 of its last 54 – including the six wins from the last three 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 115-13 (.898) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 82-6 (.932) at home. During the decade of the 1990s the Pirates won more than 80% of their games played at home.

The Pirates have had two home-court winning streaks of more than 40 games since 1990.  A 41-game home court winning streak from early 2009 until December of 2011 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.

Road Warriors: As good as Whitworth is at home, the Pirates were even better away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse in 2011-12.  The Pirates went 14-2 away from home, 8-0 in true road games.

Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers earned Second Team All-Northwest Conference last season after averaging 12.8 points per game.  He led the team in assists per game (3.5), which ranked third in the NWC.  Gebbers led the league in three-pointers made per game (2.8) and ranked third in the league in three-point percentage (42.1).  He scored a career-high 26 points on January 17th against Whitman.

In 2010-11 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.

The 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). Now Mack Larkin has stepped into that role. Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. So far this season he has averaged 8.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and is tied for the team lead in three-point shooting (.467) with Colton McCargar.

Last season he averaged 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds with 39 assists and 19 steals, despite missing four games in early January after suffering a mild concussion in practice. 

Driving Mr. Dusty: Dustin McConnell became a starter last season and has turned into a team leader this year.  He is dangerous from three-point range, making better than 38% of his shots from beyond the arc last season.  But he is even harder on opposing defenses with his hard drives to the basket, often getting the shot to go down while drawing a foul.  So far this season he is averaging 12.3 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

He ended up with a 7.7 scoring average last winter.

Frosh Phenom: George Valle has already made a huge impact in his first season with the Pirates.  He leads the team in scoring average (15.0 ppg) and has made 61% of his shots from the field.  He is one of the team's best defenders as well, ranking second on the team in steals.

Mr. Reliable: Colton McCargar does everything asked of him, whether he is in the starting lineup or the first player off of the bench.  He is averaging 10.5 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, while making 46.7% of his three-point tries so far this season.

Coming up Next Week: Whitworth will head to California for three non-conference games that will count toward NCAA Division III west region rankings.  The Pirates will play at Occidental on December 15th, then will play in a tournament at Chapman University against Univ. of Redlands (Dec. 18) and the host Panthers (Dec. 19).

The Coach: Matt Logie led Whitworth to a 26-4 record in 2011-12, his first season as coach of the Pirates.  He was also selected as the NWC Coach of the Year by his peers after directing the Pirates to a 15-1 conference mark and their sixth straight NWC tournament championship.

Logie 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.