Pirate Women Travel to Play Top-Ten Foes

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth women's basketball team faces its most challenging weekend trip of the season this week.  The Pirates will take on third-ranked George Fox on Friday night at 6:00 p.m., then battle eighth-ranked Lewis & Clark on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.  Both games will be carried live on KSBN 1230 am with Bob Castle calling all the action.  They can also be heard live over the internet at KSBN.net.

Whitworth is coming off of a hard-fought loss to Whitman last Tuesday and an easy win at Willamette on Friday.

The Pirates: Visiting Whitman came from behind to defeat Whitworth 78-70 last Tuesday night.  Whitworth took a 41-33 lead at halftime after shooting better than 55% in the first half.  But the Pirates cooled off to 39% in the second period while the Missionaries were getting warmed up (54%).  Lexi Belcher scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds.  Kayla Johnson added 17 points for the Pirates.

Whitworth bounced back from Tuesday's disappointment to roll to its largest margin of victory in a Northwest Conference game in many years with Friday's 88-46 win at Willamette.  It was a total team contribution as four players reached double figures and every player on the team scored points.  Kendra Lahue came off of the bench for a career-high 15 points and Kayla Johnson scored 14 points and dished five asssits.  Lauren Picha totaled 13 points and five assists while Jamie Lyons had 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Pirates have been able to score the basketball this season.  As a team Whitworth leads the NWC in three-pointers made per game (7.7 – which ranks 10th in all of NCAA Division III).  The Bucs also rank second in the conference in points per game (71.4) and assists per game (14.6).

Date

Time

Game

Live Coverage

Jan. 27

6:00 p.m.

At George Fox

Audio / Live Stats / Video

Jan. 28

4:00 p.m.

At Lewis & Clark

Audio /

 

The Opponents: George Fox is 17-0 overall and 8-0 in the NWC and ranked third in the most recent D3hoops.com top-25 poll.  The Bruins are shooting for their sixth straight NWC crown and finished the first half of the league schedule unbeaten after winning 75-52 at Linfield and defeating Pacific Lutheran 71-51 at home last weekend.  GFU leads the conference in scoring average (72.4), field goal percentage (45.1), three-point percentage (33.9) and assists (15.9 per game).  But it is not just about offense as the Bruins also lead the league in steals per game and blocks per game.  Junior post Hannah Munger (6'-5") averages 14.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per contest.  Senior win Keisha Gordon adds 13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.  GFU defeated Whitworth 81-69 in Spokane on December 3rd in the teams' first meeting.  Lexi Belcher had 19 points for the Pirates in that game.

Lewis & Clark is 16-1 overall and 7-1 in the NWC heading into a Friday night match-up with Whitman.  The Pioneers are ranked 8th in the latest D3hoops.com top-25 poll.  L&C rolled to a 74-37 win over Pacific (Ore.) last Friday before holding off Puget Sound 70-64 in a key road victory on Saturday.  The Pios are the best rebounding team in the league, with NWC-best averages for total rebounds (42.5) and rebound margin (+11.5).  They are second in the league in team three-point percentage, thanks in large part to the excellent play of junior guard Kristina Williams who averages 14.3 points per game while making 43.8% of her three-point tries.  Fellow junior guard Sara Villanueva adds 12.5 points and 3.5 assists per game.  L&C defeated Whitworth 69-56 in Spokane on December 2nd in the NWC opener for both schools.  Emily Guthrie led the Pirates with 15 points in that game.

NWC Standings: With nationally-ranked George Fox and Lewis & Clark setting the pace at the top of the Northwest Conference women's basketball standings, the battle behind those two is taking shape as well.  Whitman has won six straight games and is in sole possession of third place in the standings at 6-2.  Puget Sound is 5-3 and in fourth place, one game ahead of Whitworth for what would be the final spot in the NWC post-season tournament.  Pacific (Ore.), Linfield and Pacific Lutheran are all two games behind Whitworth with 2-6 records.

Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season, leading the team in total points in 11of the team's 17 games.  Belcher is averaging 16.1 points per contest, which ranks third in the NWC.  She also ranks among the conference leaders in all three shooting categories: three-point percentage (36.1 / 6th), free throw percentage (75.0 / 8th) and field goal percentage (46.2 / 7th). Belcher's 26 points in the game against Whitman was a career-high, topping the previous total of 21 points which she had accomplished in back to back against Puget Sound and Pacific (Ore.) earlier this month.

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 11.5 points per game, Guthrie has also added 3.0 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 (2.5 ) and making  35.2% of her attempts from beyond the arc (10th in the league).  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 10.3 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 10.8 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 (7.4 rpg) and steals (1.6 spg ).

Taylor Returns to the Team: Taylor Taylor is back with the team.  The senior forward rejoined the team at the beginning of Jan Term 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.  She has appeared in four games off of the bench this season, averaging 3.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.

Three SWX Broadcasts: Local cable station SWX will carry three Whitworth women's games live this season, including February 2nd contest against 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: Following this weekend's games at George Fox and Lewis & Clark, Whitworth will return home to host Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran on February 2nd and 3rd.

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 259-188 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .579 is also the best all-time among Pirate women's basketball coaches. She has been named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times.

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