Whitworth Returns to Action at PLU and UPS

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Whitworth women's basketball team returns to action this week with an important Northwest Conference trip to Tacoma, Washington.  The Pirates will battle Pacific Lutheran University on Friday night (6:00 p.m.) and will take on University of Puget Sound on Saturday (4:00 p.m.).  Both games will be heard live on KSBN  1230am in the Spokane area and on KSBN.net on the web.  Bob Castle, veteran voice of Whitworth athletics, will call the action.

Whitworth is coming off of a long holiday break.  The Pirates have not played an official game since December 17th against Lewis-Clark State.  But Whitworth was able to play an exhibition game against a team of Pirate alumni on December 30th.

 

Date

Time

Game

Live Coverage

Jan. 6

6:00 p.m.

At Pacific Lutheran

Audio / Live Stats

Jan. 7

4:00 p.m.

At Puget Sound

Audio / Live Stats

 

The Pirates: Whitworth gave NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State College all it could handle before falling 79-72 on December 17th at the Fieldhouse.  Lexi Belcher poured in 20 points while Emily Guthrie made five three-pointers to finish with 15 points while adding a game-high six assists.  Lauren Picha tallied 11 points and Kayla Johnson led Whitworth with ten rebounds.  Whitworth forced 20 turnovers by the Warriors, who came into the game ranked fourth in the NAIA national poll.

The Opponents: Pacific Lutheran comes into the week with an overall record of 4-7 and a Northwest Conference mark of 1-1.  The Lutes opened NWC play in early December with a 60-54 win at Willamette and a 66-61 loss at Linfield.  PLU's most recent contest was a 74-51 loss at home to NAIA-member Corban College on January 2nd.  Sophomore post Samantha Potter is having an outstanding season.  She ranks second in the league in scoring average (15.1 ppg) and leads the NWC in rebounding average (9.9 rpg).  Junior guard Shelly Kilcup adds 14.4 points per game and makes 2.5 three-pointers per contest (2nd in the NWC).  Last year PLU swept Whitworth, rolling to an 86-60 win in Spokane then handing the Pirates their most heartbreaking loss of the season with a 58-57 win in Tacoma.

Puget Sound is 6-5 overall and 2-0in the NWC heading into a Friday night game with Whitman.  The Loggers have not played since a pre-Christmas trip to California which resulted in three losses including a 58-55 setback at Occidental on December 20th.  UPS opened its NWC schedule in early December with a pair of road victories – 69-67 at Pacific (Ore) and 76-60 at Willamette.  The Loggers possess an All-Northwest Conference backcourt.  Junior guard Kelsey McKinnis was a Second Team All-NWC selection last season and leads the team in scoring average (14.7 ppg) this year.  Senior guard Jocelyn Riordan is a two-time All-NWC selection, including First Team in 2011, and adds 11.3 points per game.  Last year Whitworth upset UPS 69-67 in Spokane then forced the Loggers to overtime before falling 69-60 in the game in Tacoma.

Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season, leading the team in total points in seven of the team's 11 games.  Belcher is averaging 15.0 points per contest, which ranks fourth in the NWC.  . She also ranks among the conference leaders in three-point percentage (35.7 / 6th), free throw percentage (71.7 / 7th) and field goal percentage (47.5 / 9th). Belcher has tied her career-high point total (20) twice this season – in the opener against Eastern Oregon and on Dec. 17th against Lewis-Clark State.

More than Just a Shooter: Emily Guthrie earned Second Team All-NWC honors last season after ranking among the league leaders in both three-point percentage and three-pointers made per game and leading the Pirates in scoring average. But she is proving that she is more than a shooter this season. While averaging 12.5 points per game, Guthrie has also added 2.9 assists per contest (6th in the NWC) and grabs 4.7 rebounds per game. But Guthrie is still the most dangerous three-point shooter in the Northwest Conference, leading the lead in three-pointers made per game (2.8).  She tied a school record with eight threes made in the win over Lancaster Bible and her 29 points in that game surpassed her previous career-high of 21 points set in last season's win over Westminster.

Picha Breaks Out: Lauren Picha is having a breakthrough season for the Pirates, averaging 9.5 points per game this season. Her 27 points in the win at Evergreen State on November 22nd is the second-highest individual total for any Whitworth player in 2011-12.

Kayla Gets it Done: Kayla Johnson does much of the dirty work for the Whitworth basketball team this season. She is averaging 9.7 points per game, but is not afraid to mix up her 5'-8" frame inside with bigger players. She leads the team (and ranks fifth in the NWC) in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and steals (2.0 spg – 4th in the NWC).

Taylor Returns to the Team: Taylor Taylor is back.  The senior forward has rejoined the team after spending the fall semester in Germany with her husband (and former Pirate All-American) Michael Taylor, who is playing professionally.  Last year she averaged 10.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Pirates.

Three SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry three Whitworth women's games live this season: Dec. 2 vs. Lewis & Clark; Jan. 17 vs. Whitman and Feb.3 vs. Puget Sound. John Fritz will provide play by play, while former Whitworth star and men's all-time leading scorer Bryan Depew gives color commentary. 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.

Up Next: Whitworth will play three home games in a five-day span.  The Pirates will host Pacific (Ore.) on Friday, January 13th, then take on Linfield on the 14th and Whitman on Tuesday the 17th.  The contest against Whitman will be broadcast live on SWX cable television.

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 256-185 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .581 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.