SPOKANE, Wash. -- Whitworth heads into this week looking to put the pieces in place for a first victory in 2011-12. The Pirates opened this season 0-3 last week and hope to sustain the positive efforts in each of those losses and learn from the mistakes.
This week Whitworth will play at Evergreen State (Olympia, Wash.) on Wednesday night, then travel to Southern California for the Posada Royale Thanksgiving Classic at California Lutheran in Thousand Oaks.
Links to live coverage for all three games can be found in the column to the right.
The Pirates: Whitworth opened the season against Eastern Oregon at home last Tuesday night. The Pirates led for the game's 30 minutes, but the Mountaineers rallied to win 67-63 thanks in part to heavy full-court pressure. Lexi Belcher (Sr., F, Mossyrock, Wash.) led all scorers with 20 points while Emily Guthrie (Jr., G, Snohomish, Wash.) added 15 points. Kayla Johnson (So., G, Colfax, Wash.) posted 10 points and 10 rebounds for the first Whitworth double-double of the season.
The Pirates traveled to Decatur, Illinois for the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic hosted by Millikin College.
Whitworth fell 77-64 to the host Big Blue in the opening game of the tournament on Friday night. The Pirates led most of the first half and the early moments of the second half before Millikin used a 13-2 run midway through the second period to break the game open. Belcher had 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting, while Johnson added 13 points for the Bucs. Whitworth really struggled to shoot three-pointers in the game, making only 4-19 (21%) from beyond the arc.
On Saturday the Pirates lost 80-57 to Wisconsin-Whitewater, an NCAA tournament team from last season. Whitworth kept the game close through the first half, trailing only 35-31 at the break. After Lauren Picha (Jr., G, Puyallup, Wash.) drained a three-pointer to get Whitworth within 36-35 early in the second half, the Warhawks answered with an 11-1 run steadily pulled away. The Pirates committed 28 turnovers in the game. Belcher led Whitworth in scoring for the third straight game with 18 points, while Picha finished with 10 points. Johnson grabbed 10 rebounds for the second time in three games.
Despite the two losses, Lexi Belcher was named to the Coaches vs. Cancer All-Tournament team after scoring 34 points in the two contests.
Looking for the Touch: After leading the Northwest Conference in team three-point percentage and three-pointers per game last season, Whitworth has struggled to find its shooting touch early this year. The Bucs have made 28% of their shots from behind the arc this season. Last winter Whitworth made an average of 10 three-pointer per game, this year the team is sinking a little under six per contest.
The Opponents: Evergreen State is 1-2 so far this season. The NAIA-member Geoducks fell to a pair of Northwest Conference members last week, losing 74-41 at Lewis & Clark on Tuesday and 58-51 at Linfield on Friday. Sophomore guard Sami Clark leads her team in scoring, averaging 16.7 points per game. Sophomore forward Danielle Swain adds 11.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Whitworth last played Evergreen in 1998, winning 61-57 in Olympia.
Cal Lutheran is 0-1 so far this season after falling 76-66 to Hope International last week. The Regals went 14-11 overall and 8-6 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference last season. Junior guard Erica Whitley is the top returning scorer after she averaged 8.5 points per game last season and she also led her team with 57 assists. Whitworth last played CLU in December of 2009, defeating the Regals twice within a period of two weeks - first 69-57 at the same Posada Royale Classic, then 58-43 in Spokane.
Whitworth and Chapman have not played in women's basketball since the season opener of the 1999-2000 season when the Pirates defeated the Panthers 76-47 in California. But Chapman is coming off of a 22-6 season in which they made the NCAA Div. III tournament. Senior center Brandi Hood was named to the All-Independent team after leading her team in scoring (11.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). The Panthers are 1-1 so far this season after splitting at the University of Redlands Tip Off Classic, defeating Trinity (Texas) 79-73 and losing to St. Olaf 68-64.
The Coach: Helen Higgs is in her 18th season at Whitworth and is the winningest women's basketball coach in school history. She has a record of 252-181 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .582 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.