Men's Hoops Aims for Strong Finish

Men's Hoops Aims for Strong Finish

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Whitworth University men's basketball team still has much to play for when the Pirates host George Fox on Friday (8:00 pm) and Lewis & Clark on Saturday (6:00 pm) to close out the 2016-17 regular season.  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 20-3 overall and 11-3 in the Northwest this season following a road sweep last week at Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound.  The 5th-ranked Pirates not only clinched their 12th consecutive 20-win season, they also clinched the right to host an NWC tournament semifinal.  But Whitworth needs to continue to play well to solidify a strong resume for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Div. III Tournament.

After trailing much of the first half at PLU last Friday, the Pirates were behind 30-29 at halftime.  But Whitworth completely dominated the second half of the game and outscored the Lutes 30-7 over the final 13 minutes of a 72-48 victory.  The Pirates shot 48.6% from the field in the second half while holding PLU to only 24% from the floor after halftime.  Kyle Roach led Whitworth with 17 points, while Christian Jurlina posted his first double-double of the season with 16 points and 11 rebounds.  The Pirates claimed their 25th win in a row over the Lutes.

Whitworth pulled away late in the first half of Saturday's game at Puget Sound and never again trailed from that point, winning 69-62.  After the Pirates built a 15-point lead in the second half, the Loggers were able to close the margin to as little as three-points in the final minute of the game.  But Kenny Love and Christian Jurlina each made a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the win.  Jurlina led Whitworth with 19 points, while Roach added 15 and Derek Isaak chipped in 10.  Kenny Love and Drew Sears each grabbed 11 rebounds

NWC Tournament Picture:  The top four teams in the final Northwest Conference standings will qualify for the 2017 NWC Tournament.  Two of the four spots have been locked up. Second-ranked Whitman clinched the league's #1 seed last weekend while Whitworth clinched the #2 playoff spot.  The final two spots are up for grabs and four schools are within two games of one another.  George Fox (8-6) is currently third, while Linfield (7-7) is fourth and PLU and Lewis & Clark (both 6-8) are tied for fifth, one game behind.

The Opponents:  George Fox (10-13 overall, 8-6 NWC) has put itself in position to participate in its first NWC tournament since 2011.  The Bruins earned a huge 87-83 win at Linfield last Friday, but missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot with Saturday's 86-77 home loss to Willamette.  George Fox leads the league in three-pointers made per game (9.8) and they have made nearly 40% of their three-pointers (39.6%) in the NWC season.  Senior guard J.J. Lacey is averaging 17.0 points per game and is making 44.2% of his three-point tries this season.  Junior guard Thomas Rico adds 12.8 points and 2.4 assists per game.  Whitworth earned a dominating 83-53 win at George fox on January 21st.  Six players reached double figures in scoring during the game as CJ Johnson came off of the bench for 12 points and 10 rebounds.  The win was Whitworth's sixth in a row over the Bruins.

The Lewis & Clark Pioneers are fighting for their NWC tournament lives at 9-14 overall and 6-8 in the NWC, heading into Friday night's game at Whitman.  The Pioneers have participated in 17 of the 20 conference tournaments, including six in a row from 2010 through 2015.  L&C won 73-57 at Willamette last Friday, but then dropped a somewhat surprising 60-56 loss at home to Pacific (Ore.) on Saturday.  L&C is very perimeter-oriented and their top three scorers are all guards, led by senior Cannen Roberson, who averages 11.9 points per game.  Freshman Andrew Vickers and senior Markel Leonard both add 11.7 points per contest and Vickers also averages 3.5 assists per game.  Whitworth defeated Lewis & Clark 66-61 in Portland on January 20th as Christian Jurlina led the way with 13 points.  The Pirates have beaten the Pioneers seven times in a row.

On Fire:  Almost at the end of the 2016-17 season, Whitworth remains one of the hottest shooting teams in all of NCAA Division III.  The Pirates rank among the top-25 teams in the nation (out of 416) in all three shooting categories:  Field Goals (25th, 48.5%), Free Throws (16th, 76.9%) and Three-Pointers (12th, 40.9%).  Needless to say, Whitworth leads the Northwest Conference in all three categories.

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 moved up one more spot to 5th in the latest (Feb. 13) D3hoops.com poll, the highest ranking of the season for the Pirates.  Dating back to late January of 2015, Whitworth has been ranked in 33 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 12:  Whitworth has extended its school record for consecutive seasons with at least 20 victories to 12 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.  And those streaks may be coming to an end after this season for the Scots (16-7) and the Engineers (15-8).  Whitworth entered the season tied with St. Thomas (Minn.) – now 17-6 – at 11 in a row.

More Than A Decade of Dominance:  Since the beginning of the 2005-06 season the Pirates are 288-52 (.847) 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 129 of its last 138 (.935) – including 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 143-14 (.911) 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 69-12 (.852) away from home, 53-10 (.841) in true road games.

Showing Some Love:  It is another big season for senior guard Kenny Love.  Love is averaging 12.3 points per game and has made nearly 39% of his three-pointers.  In December he became the 28th player in Whitworth history to surpass 1,000 career points and he currently has 1,189.  He ranks second in the NWC in assists per game (4.4). 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.  He is now sixth on Whitworth's all-time scoring list with 1,479 points.  Jurlina is averaging 15.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.  He is making 41.7% of his three-point attempts to rank 9th 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 with an average of 1.8 blocks per game.  Sears is averaging 8.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per contest.  His overall field goal percentage of 59.2% ranks second in 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 fourth in the Northwest Conference in scoring average (16.0 ppg) while making 53.8% of his field goals (5th in the NWC) and 44.8% of his three pointers (also 5th in the NWC).  Roach also leads the team in rebounding (5.5 rpg).  Roach is one of only three players in the Northwest Conference to be selected as the league's men's basketball Student-Athlete of the Week more than once 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:  The Northwest Conference tournament takes place next week with the semifinals on Thursday and the championship on Saturday.  The top two seeds host the semifinals and the top remaining seed hosts the final.  

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.