SPOKANE, Wash. – With at least a share of the Northwest Conference title and home court advantage throughout the conference tournament already sewn up, the Whitworth men's basketball team is still looking for that final victory that will secure a fourth straight outright NWC crown. The Pirates will conclude the regular season with games at Linfield on Friday (8:00 pm) and at Willamette on Saturday (6:00 pm). Both will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230am and on the web at KSBN.net.
Watch the men's basketball schedule for other live links to this weekend's games.
The Pirates: 12th-ranked Whitworth (20-3 overall, 12-2 NWC) is one win away from its fourth consecutive outright Northwest Conference regular season championship, a feat which has not been accomplished since Whitman did it from 1927-1930. The Pirates saw their 20-game winning streak come to an end last week and also suffered consecutive NWC losses for the first time since January of 2009.
Whitworth trailed for most of the first half at Whitman, led for most of the second half, but then a foul and technical ahead by four points with less than 30 seconds to play allowed the Missionaries to force overtime last Tuesday night in Walla Walla. Whitman went on to win 93-90 in the extra period despite the fact that the Pirates shot 57% from the field in the game and Wade Gebbers posted a career-high 27 points. George Valle and Colton McCargar each scored 16 points while Taylor Farnsworth chipped in 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Pirates never led during Saturday's regular season home finale against George Fox. The Bruins built double-digit leads in each half and went on to defeat Whitworth 89-81 and end a 15-game losing streak to the Bucs. George Fox held Whitworth to 25% from three-point range and finished with a 34-30 edge in rebounding. Dustin McConnell led the Pirates with 19 points, while Taylor Farnsworth scored 17 points. Wade Gebbers had 13 points and five assists and Colton McCargar had 13 points and four assists.
The Opponents: Linfield is 4-19 overall and 3-11 in the NWC heading into the final weekend. Following an 85-60 loss at home to Pacific on Friday night, the Wildcats ended an eight-game losing streak with a 77-66 win at Puget Sound on Saturday night. Head Coach Larry Doty continues his 26th season leading Linfield and is the longest-serving coach in the conference. Sophomore center Andrew Batiuk will almost certainly finish the season as the conference's leading scorer. He is averaging 18.6 points per game and is also second in the NWC in rebounding (8.3). Sophomore guard Brandon Harris adds 11.4 points and 2.6 assists per game. Whitworth defeated Linfield 80-50 in Spokane on January 19th after building a 48-19 lead at halftime. Taylor Farnsworth and Colton McCargar led the Pirates with 13 points apiece. Whitworth has won the last nine meetings with Linfield.
Willamette comes into the week 7-16 overall and 4-10 in the NWC heading into a Friday night game with Whitman. The Bearcats are hoping to end a six-game losing streak before the season closes. Last weekend Willamette lost 72-55 at home to PLU on Friday, then fell 74-57 at Lewis & Clark on Saturday. Kip Ione continues his fourth season as head coach of the Bearcats. Three seniors lead the team and hope to finish well in their final home weekend. Senior guard Terrell Malley averages 16.8 points per game, third in the NWC. Senior post Sean Dart is the conference's leading rebounder at 8.5 per game and adds 11.6 points per contest. Senior wing Elliot Babcock-Krenk contributes 11.4 points per game and makes 42% of his three-point attempts. Whitworth earned its ninth consecutive win over Willamette on January 18th with an 88-69 victory in Spokane. Dustin McConnell led all players with 23 points while George Valle added 16 points and six rebounds.
National Ranking: Following back to back losses last week, Whitworth suffered its first major drop in this week's D3hoops.com top-25 poll (Feb. 11th), falling from 3rd to 12th. Going back to the 2009-10 season, Whitworth has been ranked in the D3hoops.com top-25 for 47 consecutive polls.
NWC Title: Whitworth clinched at least a share of the regular season NWC championship with three two weeks to play in the regular season. The conference championship is the Pirates' fourth in a row and sixth in the last seven years. Whitworth has now won a total of 15 Northwest Conference titles in men's basketball (since rejoining the league in 1982). Only three times in the league's history has a team won/shared four straight conference crowns: Willamette (1987-90, two shared); Willamette (1949-52, two shared) and Whitman (1927-30). No NWC school has ever won five straight men's basketball championships.
NWC Tournament History: Heading into next Feb. 21-23, there have been 16 conference tournaments since the NWC (then the NCIC) first began a league playoff following the 1993-94 season. Whitworth has competed in 15 of those tournaments, two ahead of Lewis & Clark for the conference's all-time lead. The Pirates are 14-7 all-time in the league playoffs and have won the last nine tournament games in which they have played. The Bucs have appeared in the championship game ten times and have won eight times: 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2003, 1996. The league did not hold a tournament in 1999, 2004 and 2005. The only season the Bucs did not qualify is 2000.
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: 78.4
1st - Team FG%: 51.0
1st – Team 3pt%: 37.5
1st - Team FT%: 74.5
2nd – Rebound Margin: +2.9
2nd – Turnovers per game: 11.9
1st – Fewest Fouls Per Game: 14.5
2nd - Defensive Points Per Game: 66.7
2nd - Opponent FG%: 42.7
Efficiency is the key: Whitworth ranks dead last in the Northwest Conference in average number of field goals attempted per game (55.3). But the Pirates rank second in field goals made per contest (28.2). Those two numbers lead to Whitworth's NWC-best team field goal percentage of 51.0, which leads the league by more than five percentage points over second place.
Total Team Effort: Whitworth currently has a 20-1 record and ranks highly in many NWC team statistical categories. This all comes despite the fact that the Pirates do not have a player crack the top 10 individually in scoring and 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.
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 and Twenty Thrice: 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 subsequent streak of 20 wins in a row ranks as the third-longest all-time at Whitworth and marks the third time in the last four years that the Bucs have reached 20 straight. Last year the Pirates won 13 straight games 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: 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).
20-Eight is Great: With the February 2nd win over Pacific, Whitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to eight in a row. 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 Pirates have won 99 of their last 109 games, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 64 of its last 68 – 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 124-14 (.899) in the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Since the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 91-7 (.929) 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 23-3 away from home, 16-1 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 11.1points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He also leads the NWC in assists per contest (3.4) this season. He scored a career-high 27 points at Whitman on February 5th, had 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 what was 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. On defense Larkin is most often tasked with guarding the opponent's best offensive player. On offense this season he has averaged 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while making 51% 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 42% of his shots from beyond the arc this season, which currently ranks fifth in the NWC. 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 13.8 points and adding 2.9 assists and 3.9 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 second on the team in scoring average (11.7 ppg) and has made 51% 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 11.5 points and adds 4.2 rebounds per game. He is making over 44% of his three-point tries so far this season, which leads the team and is third 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 has grown into his role as the Pirates' starting post player this season and leads the team by a wide margin in blocked shots (18). His season averages are up to 10.7 ppg and 5.2 rpg, which leads the team. He is making 62% 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 host the Northwest Conference tournament semifinal on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7:00 pm. If the Pirates win the semifinal, they will host the NWC Tournament Final on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:00 pm.
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.