4th-ranked Pirates Will Host Willamette and Linfield

Robby Douglas drives to the basket.
Robby Douglas drives to the basket.

SPOKANE, Wash. – After playing perhaps its toughest stretch of the season with four games over eight days, and three of those on the road, the 4th-ranked Whitworth men's basketball team returns to a more routine schedule this week when the Pirates host Willamette (Friday) and Linfield (Saturday) in a pair of Northwest Conference contests.  Friday's game is scheduled to start at 8:00 pm and will be televised live on SWX.  Saturday's game with Linfield is scheduled to start at 6:00 pm.  Both will be the second halves of doubleheaders with the women's team and both will be carried live on KSBN 1230am.

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The Pirates:   It was a week of comebacks as the Pirates improved to 14-1 overall and 6-0 in the NWC with second half rallies that beat Whitman on Tuesday night in double overtime and at George Fox on Friday.

Whitworth trailed by 10 points in the first half, and by eight at halftime and at several junctions in the second half before rallying to defeat Whitman 112-100 in double overtime in the Fieldhouse.  The Bucs might have won in the first OT period, but it was the Missionaries' turn to rally from a six-point deficit to force the second OT period.  In that second overtime Wade Gebbers' early steal and three-point play set the tone as Whitworth outscored Whitman 23-11.  Six players hit double figures in scoring, led by Dustin McConnell's career-high 24 points.  Gebbers finished with 22 points (all in the second half), seven assists and five rebounds.  Colton McCargar came off of the bench for a career-high 19 points, while Robby Douglas also came off of the bench to spark the Pirates with 11 points in nine minutes of play.  Taylor Farnsworth added 13 points and a career-high nine rebounds, while George Valle finished with 12 points.

Whitworth survived a 61-59 win at George Fox on Saturday in a game that saw wide swings in momentum.  The Pirates opened with a 20-5 lead, but the Bruins outscored Whitworth 26-5 over the rest of the first half for a 31-25 advantage.  Whitworth had a 16-2 run early in the second half to retake the lead before the Bruins went on their own 16-2 run for a 57-51 advantage with under three minutes to play.  Then the Pirates closed the game on a 10-2 run, getting the winning points on George Valle's three-point play with 19.8 seconds to go.  Colton McCargar led Whitworth with 16 points, while Wade Gebbers scored 11 and Dustin McConnell finished with ten.  The Pirates won despite a season-high 22 turnovers by making 53% of their shots from the field.  The win was Whitworth's 15th in a row over George Fox.

The Opponents: Willamette (6-8 overall, 3-2 NWC) heads into Friday night's game tied for second place with George Fox in the conference standings.  The Bearcats split a pair of games last weekend, losing 89-78 at home to Lewis & Clark on Friday night before going on the road to win 75-74 at Pacific Lutheran on Saturday.  Willamette is one of the best rebounding teams in the league, ranking second in both rebounds per game (40.3) and rebound margin (+3.0).  Senior guard Terrell Malley is a dynamic player who leads his team in scoring average (15.3 ppg).  Senior post Sean Dart adds 12.4 points per game and is the NWC leader in rebounds per game (9.4 rpg).  Senior wing Elliot Babcock-Krenk is a transfer from Humboldt State who adds 12.1 points per game and makes 45% of his three-point tries.  Kip Ione is in his fourth year leading the Bearcats.  Last season Whitworth defeated Willamette 83-69 on the road and 93-65 at home.  The Pirates have won the last eight meetings between the two schools.

Linfield College comes into the weekend 3-12 overall and 2-4 in the NWC before a Friday night game at Whitman.  The Wildcats ended a five-game skid with last Friday's 70-65 win over Puget Sound before falling 69-53 at Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday.  Linfield has one of the youngest starting lineups in the country with two freshmen and two sophomores.  Those two second-year players are very impressive, however.  Center Andrew Batiuk leads the conference in scoring average at 20.4 ppg.  But he is all over the floor with averages of 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.  And he can pop-out and make a three pointer (46%).  Guard Brandon Harris adds 12.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest.  Head coach Larry Doty is the dean of NWC men's basketball in his 26th season.  Last season Whitworth defeated Linfield 65-61 at home and 95-67 on the road.  The Pirates have won the last eight meetings between the teams.

National Raking: Whitworth moved up another spot again to fourth in today's D3hoops.com top-25 poll (Jan. 14th).  The Pirates have moved from 11th to 6th to 5th and now to 4th in the last four rankings.  Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 43 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%: 50.2
1st - Team FT%: 73.9
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 14.1
2nd – Points per game: 76.3
2nd - Defensive Points Per Game:  65.2
1st – Opponent FG%: 41.7
1st - Opponent 3-pt%: 32.5

Efficiency is the key:  Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals taken per game (54.5).  But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (27.3).  Those two numbers lead to Whitworth's NWC-best team field goal percentage of 50.2, which leads the league by nearly five percentage points over second place.

Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 14-1 record and ranks highly in many NWC team statistical categories.  This all comes despite the fact that the Pirates have no players crack the top 10 individually in scoring or rebounding.  Dustin McConnell currently ranks 11th in the NWC in points per game, while Taylor Farnsworth ranks 12th in rebounds per contest.  More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that Wade Gebbers and McConnell rank 2nd and 7th, 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.

Ten, Again: The Dec 31st 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 in its history 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).

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 93 of their last 102 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 58 of its last 60 – 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 120-13 (.901) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 87-6 (.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 21-2 away from home, 14-0 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 11.5 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game.  He scored 23 points in the season-opener against St. Thomas and 22 points in the comeback win over Whitman on Jan. 8th.

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 7.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while making 52% of his shots from the field and 38% 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 41% 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 a team-best 13.2 points and adding 2.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game.  He had a career-high 24 points in Whitworth's win over Whitman on January 8th and had 20 points 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 fourth on the team in scoring average (1.9 ppg) and has made 51% of his shots from the field.  He is one of the team's best defenders as well, leading the team in steals (21).  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 and he scored the game-winning basket and free throw at George Fox on January 11th.

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 11.3 points and adds 4.5 rebounds per game.  He is making over 43% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team.  He scored a career-high 19 points in the win over Whitman (Jan. 8) and has had 18 points in the wins over Puget Sound (Dec. 8) and 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 (16).  His season averages are up to 9.3 ppg and 5.1 rpg, which leads the team.  He is making 62.9% of his shots from the field, which currently ranks second in the Northwest Conference. He scored a career-high 29 points in the win at Pacific (Jan. 4), the team's highest single-game output so far this season.

Coming up next Week: Whitworth will begin the second round of Northwest Conference action with games at Puget Sound (Friday) and Pacific Lutheran (Saturday).

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.