Pirates Open NWC Second Half at UPS and PLU

SPOKANE, Wash. – The fourth-ranked Whitworth Pirates will open the second half of the Northwest Conference basketball schedule this weekend with games at Puget Sound (Friday, 8:00 pm) and Pacific Lutheran (Saturday, 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.

Watch the Whitworth men's basketball schedule for live online links.

The Pirates:   Whitworth completed the first half of conference play with home wins over Willamette and Linfield last weekend.  The Pirates improved to 16-1 with their 16th consecutive win, the third-longest winning streak in school history.  Perhaps more important, Whitworth is 8-0 in the NWC with a two-game lead in the loss column over George Fox (5-2) and a three game lead over both Lewis & Clark (5-3) and Whitman (5-3).

Whitworth closed the first half of last Friday's game with Willamette on a 15-1 run and then steadily pulled away for an 88-69 victory over the visiting Bearcats.  The Pirates made 50% of their shots from the field (32-64), including 50% from three-point range (8-16).  Dustin McConnell scored 23 points, while Colton McCargar added 17 points off of the bench.  George Valle finished with 16 points and six rebounds and Wade Gebbers dished seven assists.  The win was Whitworth's ninth in a row over Willamette.

Whitworth blistered the nets from three-point range in the first half against Linfield on Saturday night, making 9-13 shots (69%) from beyond the arc to open an insurmountable 48-19 halftime lead.  The Pirates would go on to an 80-50 win over the visiting Wildcats while making 50% (30-60) of their shots from the field for the second straight night.  Taylor Farnsworth had 13 points and five rebounds, while Colton McCargar and Robby Douglas came off of the bench for 13 and 12 points, respectively.  Whitworth earned its ninth straight win over Linfield.

The Pirates took great care of the ball over the weekend, committing a total of 13 turnovers combined in the two wins.

The Opponents: Puget Sound is 6-11 overall and 1-7 in the NWC coming into Friday night's game.  The Loggers are looking to break a four-game losing streak.  Last weekend UPS fell 77-74 at George Fox on Friday night and 89-74 at Pacific on Saturday night.  The Loggers rank first in the conference in rebounds per game (40.0) and second in steals per game (7.9).  Head coach Justin Lunt continues his seventh season leading UPS.  Senior guard Rex Holmes averages 14.1 points and 2.8 assists per contest, while senior forward Riggs Yarbro scores 12.0 points and grabs 5.3 rebounds per game.  Whitworth won the teams' first meeting 78-45 on December 8th in Spokane.  The Loggers made only 27% (17-62) of their shots from the field in that contest, 18% (4-22) from three-point range.  Colton McCargar led the Pirates with 18 points while Dustin McConnell finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.  Whitworth has won the last eight meetings between the schools.

Pacific Lutheran is 4-13 overall and 2-6 in the NWC heading into a Friday night meeting with Whitman.  The Lutes are also looking to break a four-game losing skid this weekend.  PLU lost 71-59 at Lewis & Clark last Friday before falling 66-61 at George Fox on Saturday.  The Lutes take good care of the basketball, leading the NWC in fewest turnovers per game (11.3).  PLU is also second in the NWC in points allowed per game (65.4).  Head Coach Steve Dickerson continues his seventh season leading the Lutes.  Senior wing Cameron Schilling leads his team in both scoring (13.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg).  Senior guard Andrew Earnest adds 12.6 points per game and continues to be one of the most dangerous three-point shooters in the NWC (43.4%).  Whitworth had to rally from a seven-point, second half deficit before pulling out a 63-56 win over PLU in Spokane on December 7th.  George Valle led the Bucs with 16 points and six rebounds and Mack Larkin added 12 points.  Whitworth currently has a 15-game winning streak in the series.

National Raking: Whitworth remained fourth in this week's D3hoops.com top-25 poll (Jan. 21st).  The Pirates have steadily moved up the rankings over the last six weeks.  Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 44 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:
2nd – Points per game: 80.0
1st - Team FG%: 50.2
1st – Team 3pt%: 37.9
1st - Team FT%: 73.1
2nd – Rebound Margin: +2.8
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 14.2
2nd – Blocks per game: 2.8
1st - Defensive Points Per Game:  64.5
1st – Opponent FG%: 41.7
1st - Opponent 3-pt%: 32.3

Efficiency is the key:  Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals attempted per game (55.4).  But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (27.8).  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 16-1 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 13th in rebounds per contest.  More telling to the Pirates' success is the fact that Wade Gebbers leads the NWC in assists per game and McConnell ranks sixth.

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.  The current streak of 16 wins in a row ranks as the third-longest all-time at Whitworth.  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 95 of their last 104 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level.  Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 60 of its last 62 – 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 122-13 (.904) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 89-6 (.937) 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 10.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.  He also leads the NWC in assists per contest (3.7) this season.  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 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while making 52% of his shots from the field and 39% 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 44% 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 13.5 points and adding 2.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.  He had a career-high 24 points in Whitworth's win over Whitman on January 8th and had 23 points in the win over Willamette (Jan. 18th).

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 third on the team in scoring average (11.0 ppg) and has made 50% of his shots from the field.  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 11.8 points and adds 4.3 rebounds per game.  He is making over 46% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team and ranks second in the NWC.  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 (17).  His season averages are up to 9.5 ppg and 5.1 rpg, which leads the team.  He is making 61.3% of his shots from the field, which currently ranks third 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 host Lewis & Clark on Friday, February 1st and Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday, February 2nd.

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.

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