Whitworth Men Set for Early-Season Showdowns

SPOKANE, Wash. – Fifth-ranked Whitworth will host Whitman on Tuesday night in an early showdown between first and second place in the Northwest Conference men's basketball standings.  The Pirates will then hit the road for a Friday night game at third-place George Fox in only the third home game of the season for the Bruins.  Both are scheduled to tip off at 8:00 pm and both can be heard live on KSBN 1230 am.

Live links for this TUESDAY's game:

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

Check the men's basketball schedule for live links to Friday's game.

The Pirates:   Whitworth claimed sole possession of first place in the Northwest Conference standings with a pair of road victories last weekend.  The Pirates (12-1 overall, 4-0 NWC) are the only conference team without a loss.

Whitworth built a 17-point lead in the second half before withstanding a strong rally that saw Pacific climb back to within three-points late in the game.  But the Pirates were strong at the free throw line and on defense when they needed to be, earning an 80-77 Northwest Conference road victory.  Taylor Farnsworth posted his second straight career night, hitting 12 of 17 shots from the floor and 5-7 free throws for 29 points, which surpassed the previous career high of 16 he had in the team's previous game vs. Hamline.  Wade Gebbers and Colton McCargar scored 16 points each.  McCargar had four three-pointers and five rebounds, while Gebbers had three steals and three three-pointers.  The win was Whitworth's ninth straight over Pacific.

Whitworth won 78-66 at Lewis & Clark on Saturday night, the team's 12th straight victory this season.  And for only the third time in those 12 wins, the Pirates did not trail at any point in the game after jumping out to an 11-2 lead in the opening minutes.  Whitworth extended the lead to 14 points on several occasions in the second half before L&C pulled to within six points but could get no closer.  Colton McCargar came off of the bench for a career-high 18 points, while Dustin McConnell posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.  Mack Larkin finished with 10 points and six boards.  Robby Douglas also played 17 key minutes off of the bench and scored eight points. The Bucs earned their tenth straight win over the Pioneers.

The Opponents: Whitman comes into tomorrow night's game with an overall record of 9-4 and a Northwest Conference mark of 3-1.  The second-place Missionaries dropped a hard-fought 88-84 decision at Lewis & Clark last Friday night, before winning 76-65 at Pacific on Saturday.  Whitman had an eight game winning streak earlier this season.  The Missionaries' up-tempo style leads the NWC in scoring average (93.2 ppg) along with assists (14.5 apg) and steals (12.4 spg).  The high-intensity style also leads to many free throws.  The team leads the league in free throws taken per game (26.3) and free throws made per game (18.8).  Ben Eisenhardt, a 6-10 junior forward, averages 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest, while fellow junior forward Matt Mounier adds 14.3 points per game and leads the team in three-pointers taken.  Whitworth and Whitman split two games last season, each winning on the other's home floor.  The Missionaries won 77-66 in Spokane to hand the Bucs their only NWC defeat before the Pirates won 81-74 in Walla Walla.

It has been a long and winding road for George Fox (6-5 overall, 2-1 NWC) since the Bruins hosted Portland Bible College on November 19th.  It will have been eight games over six weeks since GFU last played at home when the third-place Bruins host the Pirates on Friday night. George Fox came from behind to defeat Yamhill County rival Linfield 71-67 in overtime on Friday night.  The Bruins then fell behind by double digits early in an 85-74 loss at Willamette on Saturday.  George Fox leads the NWC in blocks per game (3.5) and ranks second in assists per game (14.4) this season.  Junior wing Sean Adkins averages 17.4 points per contest, while senior win Anthony Sanchez contributes 11.6 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.  Whitworth swept George Fox in a pair of meetings last year, winning 75-48 in Spokane and 85-66 in Newberg.  The Pirates have won the last 14 meetings between the teams.

National Raking: Whitworth moved up one spot to fifth in today's D3hoops.com top-25 poll. The Pirates were 6th last week, 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 42 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 - Team FG%: 49.1
1st - Team FT%: 73.6
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 13.2
2nd – Points per game: 74.7
2nd - Defensive Points Per Game:  63.0
2nd – Opponent FG%: 41.2
2nd - Opponent 3-pt%: 32.3

Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 12-1 record and ranks highly in many NWC 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 9th 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 Wade Gebbers and McConnell rank 2nd and 3rd, respectively, 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).

Rolling On: The Bucs have won 91 of their last 100 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 56 of its last 58 – 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 20-2 away from home, 13-0 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 10.5 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.9 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 8.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while making 55% of his shots from the field and 43% 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 36% 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 12.6 points, 3.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds 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 (11.5 ppg) and has made 53% of his shots from the field.  He is one of the team's best defenders as well, leading the team in steals (20).  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 10.5 points and leads the team with 4.8 rebounds per game.  He is making over 41% of his three-point tries so far this season.  He scored a career-high 18 points in the win over Puget Sound (Dec. 8) and matched it in the win at Lewis & Clark (Jan. 5).

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 six dunks in his last six games.  Thanks to his 29 points and seven rebounds in the win at Pacific his season averages are up to 9.1 ppg and 4.8 rpg.  He is making 59.5% of his shots from the field.

Coming up next Week: Whitworth will host Willamette on Friday and Linfield on Saturday to close out the first half of the Northwest Conference schedule.  The Friday night game is the third SWX broadcast of the season.

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.