It is Do-Or-Die Weekend for the Pirate Women

SPOKANE, Wash. – It is do-or-die time for the Whitworth women's basketball team.  The Pirates are in fifth place in the Northwest Conference and trail fourth-place Puget Sound by two games.  If Whitworth is to have a chance to catch UPS for the fourth and final playoff spot in the NWC tournament, the Bucs will likely have to win all four of their remaining games.  It begins this weekend with a trip to Linfield and Pacific (Ore.) on Friday and Saturday.  Both games will tip off at 6:00 p.m. and will be broadcast live on KSBN and KSBN.net.

Whitworth (9-12 overall, 5-7 NWC) is coming off of a home split this past weekend, knocking off Puget Sound before falling in overtime to Pacific Lutheran.

The Pirates: Friday's 69-61 win over Puget Sound was arguably the Pirates' best victory of the season.  Whitworth took a 34-29 halftime lead and except for a brief minute early in the second half, led the rest of the way.  Emily Guthrie's three-pointer with less than three minutes to play gave the Pirates an 11-point lead that the Loggers could not overcome.  The dirty work was done on the glass as Whitworth outrebounded UPS 42-37, including an 18-11 edge in offensive boards.  Lexi Belcher finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Guthrie scored 12 points and dished four assists.  Kayla Johnson totaled 11 points, five rebounds and three assists.  Whitworth split the season series with UPS.

After Friday's emotional victory, the Pirates came out flat in Saturday's game against Pacific Lutheran.  Whitworth missed 10 of its first 11 shots and fell behind 14-3.  But the Bucs were able to overcome double-digit deficits in both halves and eventually took five point leads late in regulation and in overtime.  But Whitworth could not hold on and fell 87-84 in overtime to the Lutes.  Kayla Johnson scored a season-high 22 points, 16 of those coming after halftime.  Lexi Belcher finished with 19 points and Emily Guthrie added 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists.  Kendra Knutsen dished five assists to lead the team.  Whitworth and PLU also split the season series.

The Pirates have been able to score the basketball this season.  As a team Whitworth leads the NWC in three-pointers made per game (7.6 – which ranks 12th in all of NCAA Division III).  The Bucs also rank second in the conference in points per game (70.7) and team three-point percentage (32.0%) and third in assists per game (14.4).

Date

Time

Game

Live Coverage

Feb. 10

6:00 p.m.

At Linfield

Audio

Feb. 11

6:00 p.m.

At Pacific (Ore.)

Audio / Live Stats

The Opponents: Linfield is 10-11 overall and 4-8 in the NWC coming into the weekend.  Last weekend the Wildcats won 69-55 at Willamette before falling 66-53 at home to nationally-ranked Lewis & Clark.  Linfield ranks second in the NWC in team field goal percentage (41.7) and is third in team free throw percentage (71.5).  Senior guard Gretchen Owens is having an All-America type season with averages of 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game.  She leads the league in scoring average by a wide margin.  Sophomore forward Kaely Maltman adds a very good second scoring option by averaging 13.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.  On January 14th Whitworth overcame a 35-point scoring night by Owens to defeat Linfield 75-73 in Spokane.  Lexi Belcher led the Bucs with 18 points while Kayla Johnson grabbed 12 rebounds.

Pacific University is 11-9 overall and 4-8 in the NWC heading into a Friday night match-up with Whitman College.  The Boxers lost 62-35 at 3rd-ranked George Fox last Friday night, but rebounded to defeat Willamette 80-64 at home on Saturday.  Pacific is second in the NWC in steals per game (11.5) and leads the conference in fewest fouls committed per game (13.4).  Senior forward Erica Schultz averages 14.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, while junior forward Paige Jensen adds 11.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per contest.  Jensen's rebounding average ranks third in the NWC.  On January 13th Whitworth topped Pacific 70-68 in overtime in Spokane after Lauren Picha scored a late basket to force the extra period.  Lexi Belcher had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Bucs, while Picha finished with 19 points.

NWC Standings: Nationally-ranked George Fox (12-0) has almost locked up the top spot in the NWC standings, while Lewis & Clark (10-2) is in very good shape for second place.  Whitman (8-4) moved ahead of Puget Sound (7-5) into third place in the NWC standings.  Whitworth (5-7) is two games behind UPS with four games to go.  But hope remains for the Pirates as Puget Sound must play both GFU and L&C the final weekend of the season.  The top four teams in the final standings advance to the NWC post-season tournament that determines the league's automatic bid to the NCAA championships.

Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season, leading the team in total points in 13 of the team's 21 games.  Belcher is averaging 16.4 points per contest, which ranks third in the NWC.  She also ranks among the conference leaders in all three shooting categories: three-point percentage (37.2 / 4th), free throw percentage (72.1 / 11th) and field goal percentage (44.3 / 9th). Belcher's 26 points in the game against Whitman was a career-high on January 17th and she matched that with 26 at 8th-ranked Lewis & Clark on January 28th.

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 3.1 assists per contest (4th 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 (2.4) and making  33.3% 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.

Kayla Gets it Done: Kayla Johnson does much of the dirty work for the Whitworth basketball team this season. She is averaging 11.7 points per game, but is not afraid to mix up her 5'-8" frame inside with bigger players. She leads the team (and ranks 8th in the NWC) in rebounding (7.0 rpg) and steals (1.5 spg).

Picha Breaks Out: Lauren Picha is having a breakthrough season for the Pirates, averaging 9.8 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.

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 eight games off of the bench this season, averaging 4.8 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Three SWX Broadcasts: Friday's game against Puget Sound was the third of three games carried live this season by local cable station SWX.  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.

Up Next: Following this weekend's games at Linfield and Pacific, Whitworth will play at Whitman on Tuesday and then host Willamette next Saturday in the regular season finale.

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 260-191 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .575 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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