Whitworth Returns to Northwest Conference Play

SPOKANE, Wash. – Sixth-ranked Whitworth turns its attention back to Northwest Conference play this weekend as the Pirates travel to play at Pacific (Ore.) in Forest Grove on Friday and Lewis & Clark in Portland on Saturday.  Friday's game is scheduled to tip off at 8:00 pm and Saturday is scheduled for 6:00 pm.  Both are the second halves of doubleheaders with the Whitworth women.

Check the men's basketball schedule for live links to this weekend's games.

The Pirates:   Whitworth played another strong second half, offensively and defensively, to rally past visiting Hamline University 77-67 on New Year's Eve Day in the Fieldhouse.  The Pirates, who trailed by as many as seven points in the first half, shot 57% in the second half and held the Pipers to only 43% after halftime.  All five Whitworth starters reached double figures in scoring, led by Taylor Farnsworth who had career highs of 16 points and seven rebounds.  Dustin McConnell added 15 points and five assists, while fellow guard Wade Gebbers finished with 10 points, six assists and five boards.  Forwards Mack Larkin and George Valle paired up for a total of 25 points, nine rebounds and four steals.

The Opponents: Pacific University is off to a 6-3 start this season.  The Boxers are the only NWC school yet to play a conference game.  Pacific's only action after the break has been an 80-55 win over visiting Walla Walla College on December 29th.  The Boxers have been particularly good on the boards and on defense.  Pacific has a significant lead in the NWC in rebound margin at +11.3 per contest.  The Boxers also rank second in the league in opponent field goal percentage (39.8%).  Freshman guard Danny Brakebush has been outstanding, averaging 15.1 points per game while making 47% of his shots from three-point range.  Senior guard Colin Wester provides the leadership and stability with averages of 13.7 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.  Last year Whitworth defeated Pacific twice, winning 65-55 in Spokane and 76-54 in Forest Grove.  The Pirates have won the last eight meetings between the teams.

Lewis & Clark College is 6-5 overall and 0-2 in the NWC heading into a Friday night contest with Whitman College.  The Pioneers' 0-2 start in conference play came thanks to a 75-68 loss at Linfield on November 30th and a 61-56 loss at home to George Fox on December 1st.  In post Christmas play Lewis & Clark went 1-1 at the Whittier College tournament, defeating the host Poets 78-69 in the opener on December 29th and falling 55-52 to Cal Maritime in the championship game on the 30th.  The Pioneers lead the NWC in team three-point percentage (37.4) and in fewest turnovers per game (11.4).  All-NWC senior guard Ross Erickson does many things well with averages of 14.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.  First-year guard Serg Ovchinnikov adds 12.0 points per contest and makes 49% of his three-point tries.  Last year Whitworth and L&C met three times and the Pirates won all three.  Whitworth won the regular season meetings 77-69 (home) and 79-59 (away) before winning 79-61 in the NWC semifinals at home.  The Pirates have a nine-game winning streak in the series.

National Raking: Whitworth moved up five places in today's D3hoops.com top-25 poll.  The Pirates came in at 6th, a season-high, after they were 11th in the previous poll (Dec. 18). Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 41 consecutive polls.

NWC Leaders:  Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference, or ranks second, this season in several team statistical categories.  To the Pirates' credit, those statistical rankings come on both ends of the floor.  They include:
1st - Defensive Points Per Game:  61.5
1st - Opponent 3-pt%: 30.7
1st - Team FG%: 48.7
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 13.0
2nd - Fewest Turnovers per game: 11.7
2nd – Team FT%: 72.9
2nd – Points per game: 73.9
2nd – Team 3pt%: 35.9

Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 10-1 record and ranks highly in many team statistical categories.  This all comes despite the fact that the Pirates barely have players crack the top 10 individually in scoring or rebounding.  Dustin McConnell currently ranks 10th in the NWC in points per game, while Colton McCargar ranks 15th in rebounds per contest.  More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that McConnell and Wade Gebbers are tied for second in the NWC in assists per game.

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.

Back on KSBN: Local radio station KSBN (1230am) will carry all remaining regular season Pirate games, and any post-season contests.  The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of almost 20 years.  Bob Castle, whose voice has become synonymous with Whitworth athletics on the radio, is back as the voice of the Pirates in 2012-13. Bob has called Whitworth games for the past 12 seasons, as well as in 1997-98. Bob has 20 years in radio and his experience as a sports broadcaster includes stints as the voice of Spokane Indians Baseball, Gonzaga University baseball and Washington State women's basketball.

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).

Ten, Again: Last Monday's win over Hamline was the Pirates' tenth victory in a row this season.  It marks the fourth consecutive year that Whitworth has put together a winning streak of at least 10 in a row.  Last year the Pirates won 13 games in a row late in the season.  In 2010-11 the team won its first 23 in a row to ascend to the #1 ranking in Division III basketball.  And in 2009-10 the Bucs put together a school-record 25 game winning streak.  Whitworth has only had five other seasons with winning streaks of at least ten in a row: 2006-07 (13 in a row); 2002-03 (12 in a row); 1995-96 (13 in a row); 1991-92 (10 in a row); 1989-90 (11 in a row).

Rolling On: The Bucs have won 89 of their last 98 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 54 of its last 56 – 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 119-13 (.901) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 86-6 (.935) 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 have been even better away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse in the last two seasons.  Since the start of the 11-12 season, Whitworth is 18-2 away from home, 11-0 in true road games.

Wade Leading the Way: Point guard Wade Gebbers is the heart that drives the Pirate engine on the basketball floor.  He has battled through persistent injuries this season to average 10.3 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game.  He scored 23 points in the season-opener against St. Thomas.

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 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while making 56% of his shots from the field and 44% from three-point range.  He scored a career-high 17 points in the win over Simpson on December 22nd.

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 is dangerous from three-point range, making better than 38% of his shots from beyond the arc this 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 12.9 points, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.  He had a career-high 20 points in Whitworth's win at Occidental (Dec. 15).

He ended up with a 7.7 scoring average last winter after taking over as a starter eight games into the season.  He made 38% of his attempts from three-point range.

Frosh Phenom: George Valle has already made a huge impact in his first season with the Pirates.  He is second on the team in scoring average (12.4 ppg) and has made 52% of his shots from the field.  He is one of the team's best defenders as well, sharing the team lead in steals (17).  He has already been selected as a Northwest Conference Student-Athlete of the Week in men's basketball (Dec. 4).  His career-high is 23 points in the win at Montana Tech.

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 9.2 points and leads the team with 4.7 rebounds per game.  He is making almost 36% of his three-point tries so far this season.  He scored a career-high 18 points in the win over Puget Sound (Dec. 8).

Block Party: Taylor Farnsworth is growing into his role as the Pirates' starting post player this season.  He leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots (1.2) per game and has five dunks in his last four games.  Thanks to his 16 points and seven rebounds in the win over Hamline his season averages are up to 7.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg.  He is making 61.5% of his shots from the field.

Coming up next Week: Whitworth will host Whitman on Tuesday, January 8th before heading to play at George Fox on Friday, January 11th.

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.