SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University men's basketball team has its work cut out if the Pirates are going to get back into the thick of the Northwest Conference men's basketball title chase. And it begins this week with a pair of tough games against visiting Puget Sound (Friday, 8:00 pm) and Pacific Lutheran (Saturday, 6:00 pm). Friday's game will be televised on SWX and both games will be heard live in Spokane on KSBN 1230 am and on the web at KSBN.net.
Watch the Whitworth men's basketball schedule for other live links to this week's games.
The Pirates: Whitworth is 11-2 overall and 2-2 in the NWC this season after last weekend's home split with Pacific and Linfield. The Bucs are ranked 8th in the latest D3hoops.com top-25 poll, but are tied for third in the current NWC standings behind Whitman (4-0) and George Fox (3-1).
Pacific University ended a 16-game losing streak to Whitworth with last Friday's 90-88 victory. The Boxers turned a ten-point first half deficit into an eight-point lead with a 22-4 run late in the first period. The Pirates bounced back to retake a brief lead early in the second half, but Pacific retook control and held on at the end for the win. Whitworth allowed the visitors to make 50% of their shots, including 56% (9-16) from three-point range, and the 90 points is the most given up to an opponent this season. Kenny Love scored a season-high 27 points, while Kyle Roach chipped in 21 points. Drew Sears had 11 points and eight rebounds, despite playing only 15 minutes because of foul trouble.
The Pirates rebounded to defeat Linfield 87-81 on Saturday night. The Wildcats led for much of the first half before Whitworth took control in the second period. The Bucs built a lead of 14 points (71-57) with less than five minutes to play before Linfield made a late run. Whitworth shot 50.9% from the floor, despite a second straight cold shooting night from three-point range (33%). Love led five Pirates in double figures with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists. Christian Jurlina added 16 points and five assists. Ben Bishop, making his first start of the season, scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. Ben College scored all ten of his points in the first half to help prevent Linfield from building on its lead. The win was Whitworth's 17th in a row over the Wildcats and 17th straight at home.
The Opponents: Puget Sound comes into the weekend 9-4 overall and 2-2 in the NWC. The Loggers split a pair of games at home last weekend, defeating Willamette 71-69 in OT on Friday before falling 76-70 to Lewis & Clark on Saturday. Puget Sound, coached by Justin Lunt in his 11th season, plays some of the best defense in the NWC. The Loggers outscore opponents by an average of 80.6 – 67.3 and they lead the lead in opponent field goal percentage (38.7) and in opponent three-point percentage (26.9). Senior guard Carlos Mancasola, an honorable mention All-NWC honoree last year, leads the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game. The most dominant Logger is senior G Kohl Meyer, a First Team All-NWC selection from 2016 who averages 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Whitworth defeated Puget Sound three times last season – 87-68 at home and 67-65 away in the regular season and 75-58 at home in the NWC semifinals. The Pirates have won 17 in a row vs. the Loggers.
Pacific Lutheran is 7-6 overall and 2-2 in the NWC, heading into Friday night's game at #2 Whitman. The Lutes return four starters from a team that reached the NWC tournament finals last year under 11th-year head coach Steve Dickerson. PLU continues to excel at not beating itself. The Lutes lead the league in fewest turnovers committed per game (12.3) and in fewest fouls committed per game (16.8). PLU is averaging 74.9 points and allowing 75.7 points per game so far in 2016-17. Senior guard Brandon Lester, a First Team All-NWC selection last year, is averaging 16.8 points per game. Senior wing Jared Christy contributes 14.0 points and 4.0 assists per game, while leading the NWC in rebounding (11.2 rpg). He is the current NWC men's basketball Student-Athlete of the Week after he averaged 22.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists in last weekend's wins over George Fox (92-75) and Willamette (81-70). Including the NWC tournament final (75-62), Whitworth beat PLU three times last year. The Pirates won the regular season contests 93-62 (home) and 73-71 (away). Whitworth has won 23 consecutive games against the Lutes, the team's longest current winning streak against an NWC opponent.
NWC Title Favorites: Whitworth is picked first in the 2016-17 NWC Coaches Poll. The Pirates have claimed seven consecutive NWC regular season titles and nine in the last ten years. Whitworth has won a total of 18 NWC crowns since rejoining the league in 1982. In 2015-16 the Pirates became the first team in league history to win seven straight NWC championships in men's basketball.
On Fire: At the midpoint of the 2016-17 season, Whitworth is one of the hottest shooting teams in all of NCAA Division III. The Pirates rank among the top-15 teams in the nation (out of 416) in all three shooting categories: Field Goals (13th, 50.1%), Free Throws (7th, 79.4%) and Three-Pointers (4th, 43.4%). Needless to say, Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference in all three categories by a wide margin.
Forecast in the 90's: Whitworth has reached 90 points in a game seven times in 2016-17. The only other time that the Pirates hit 90 points as many as seven times in one year was 2010-11, a season in which the Bucs finished 28-2 and spent much of the year ranked #1 in the country. They hit 90 or more seven times in 30 games that season.
National Ranking: Whitworth dropped to 8th from 5th in the January 9th D3hoops.com poll. Dating back to late January of 2015, Whitworth has been ranked in 28 consecutive D3hoops.com polls. The Pirates' longest streak of appearing in the D3hoops.com national rankings was 52 consecutive polls from midway through the 2009-10 season until December of 2014.
Team Captains: The members of the Whitworth basketball team and coaching staff have voted all four seniors – Derek Isaak, Christian Jurlina, Kenny Love, and Drew Sears as captains for the 2016-17 season. It is Love's second year as a captain.
20 By 11: Last season Whitworth extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to 11 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). Only Wooster (OH) with 19 and WPI (MA) with 13 have longer current runs of consecutive 20-win seasons in NCAA Division III men's basketball. Whitworth is tied with St. Thomas (Minn.) at 11 in a row.
More Than A Decade of Dominance: Since the beginning of the 2005-06 season the Pirates are 279-51 (.845) over the last 11+ years, an amazing run of success matched by few other college teams at any level. Within the Northwest Conference, Whitworth has won 120 of its last 128 (.938) – including the 14 wins from the last seven NWC tournaments.
Home-Sweet-Home: Whitworth has been stellar in the Whitworth Fieldhouse since the at least the 1990's. But since the beginning of the 2005-06 season, the Bucs are 140-13 (.915) at home. During the decade of the 1990s and 2000's Whitworth won more than 84% of its home games.
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 almost as good away from the Whitworth Fieldhouse during Matt Logie's tenure as head coach. Since the start of the 11-12 season, Whitworth is 63-12 (.840) away from home, 47-10 (.824) in true road games.
Showing Some Love: It is another big season for senior guard Kenny Love. Love is averaging 13.8 points per game and has made 42.6% of his three-pointers. In December he became the 28th player in Whitworth history to surpass 1,000 career points and he currently has 1,084. He ranks first in the NWC in assists per game (4.9). Love, a two-time All-Northwest Conference honoree, was picked to the 2016-17 D3hoops.com Preseason All-American team (honorable mention). He has also been voted as a team captain for the second year in a row.
Love was a First Team All-NWC honoree for the second straight year in 2015-16, despite missing four games to an eye injury in December. He averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. Love made 41.2% of his three-pointers and 81.8% of his free throws. He scored a career-high 28 points in Whitworth's win over Calvin College on December 29th, leading to a selection as the D3hoops.com Classic MVP and NWC Player of the Week, and he was the leading scorer with 23 points in the Pirates' victory over PLU in the NWC tournament championship game.
Love was the NWC Player of the Year, a First Team All-Region selection and a Third Team All-American (NABC) as a sophomore in 2014-15. He averaged 11.9 points per game overall, but he averaged a team-best 14.7 points per game against NWC foes. He ranked third in the league that season in three-point percentage (45.1%) and was the Pirates' leader in assists per game (2.7).
Aussie Aussie: Christian Jurlina, a senior from Sydney, Australia, is in his third straight year as a Pirate starter in 2016-17. Over the weekend he moved into 10th place on Whitworth's all-time scoring list with 1,349 points and needs ten points to move into 9th place. Jurlina is averaging 16.9 points and a team-best 5.1 rebounds per game. He is making 48.5% of his three-point attempts to rank 5th in the NWC. He was selected as the NWC's men's basketball Student-Athlete of the Week on December 12th.
Jurlina claimed his second straight First Team All-NWC award in 2015-16. He scored 14.6 points per contest and added 5.4 rebounds per game. Jurlina scored 27 points in a victory over Lewis & Clark on December 4th and on January 15 and 16 he led Whitworth win wins over Willamette and George Fox, averaging 19.0 points and 8.0 rebounds to earn the NWC Player of the Week honor.
Jurlina became a First Team All-NWC honoree as a sophomore (2014-15), leading the Pirates in scoring at 14.8 points per game. He made 44.3% of his shots from the field and 41.4% of his three-pointers. He also worked hard on the defensive end, leading the team in steals (54) and in rebounding (5.4 rpg). He was the NWC Player of the Week on December 29th for his work in Whitworth's wins over Marian (Wis.) and Wells (N.Y.).
As a freshman Jurlina was named the NWC men's basketball Player of the Week on February 3rd after a breakout weekend in wins over Willamette and Pacific. He averaged 10.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game to rank third on the team in both categories. He was one of only two first-year players on the 2014 All-NWC list, earning honorable mention honors.
The Sears Tower: Bad news for Whitworth opponents in 2016-17: senior post Drew Sears grew an inch and a half since last season and is now officially seven feet tall. He used all of that height while batting away a career-high seven shots in the season opening win over St. Olaf and he currently leads the conference an average of 2.2 blocks per game. Sears is averaging 9.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest. His overall field goal percentage of 61% leads the NWC.
Sears established himself as a dominating post player in the NWC as a junior, making 64.2% of his shots from the floor to lead the conference. He also led the league in blocked shots per game (2.3) by a wide margin. He averaged 7.8 points per game and led the team with 16 points in the NWC semifinal win over Puget Sound. He set his career-high of 17 points in the win over Pacific on February 6th.
Super Soph: Kyle Roach, the only sophomore in the Whitworth starting lineup among four seniors, is having a terrific season. He is second in the Northwest Conference in scoring average (17.8 ppg) while making 57.1% of his field goals (3rd in the NWC) and 47.3% of his three pointers (6th in the NWC). Roach also is third on the team in rebounding (4.8 rpg). Roach is the only player in the Northwest Conference to be selected as the league's men's basketball Student-Athlete of the Week twice this season (Nov. 28, Dec. 26).
On the Air Again: Whitworth's games are once again carried live this season on KSBN 1230am in Spokane. The relationship between Pirate athletics and KSBN goes back to 1994, a span of 22 years. Bud Nameck is the new voice of Whitworth basketball. The co-host of 920 KXLY radio's Morning News, Nameck has more than 30 years of experience calling college basketball at Gonzaga University and Washington State.
Coming up next: Whitworth will hit the road for games at Lewis & Clark and George Fox on January 20th and 21st.
The Coach: Matt Logie leads NCAA Division III in winning percentage by active coaches with at least five years of experience. Logie heads into the 2016-17 season with a record of 126-20 and a winning percentage of .863 over his first five seasons at Whitworth. He also accomplished what no other coach had ever done in NCAA Division III history – win 100 games in his first four seasons as a head coach. He is a three-time NWC Coach of the Year honoree, earning the award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. He is 83-7 against the NWC, counting each of the last five conference tournaments. Logie has guided several players to post-season honors in his four seasons, including Third Team NABC All-America recognition for George Valle (2016), Kenny Love (2015) and Dustin McConnell (2014). Logie has been a finalist for the Glen Robinson Division III men's basketball Coach of the Year award twice in his career (2016 and 2013)
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.