January 31, 2012

Whitworth Women Face Key Weekend

SPOKANE, Wash. – If the Whitworth women's basketball team is going to make a move toward contending for a spot in the Northwest Conference post-season tournament, that move will have to begin this week.  The Pirates will host University of Puget Sound on Friday night (6:00 p.m.) and Pacific Lutheran University on Saturday (4:00 p.m.) in a pair of key conference contests.  The Friday night game will be carried live on cable TV channel SWX in the Spokane area.

Whitworth is coming off of a pair of losses on the road to top-ten ranked George Fox and Lewis & Clark last weekend.

Alumni Night: Saturday is Alumni Night in the Whitworth Fieldhouse.  All Spokane area Alumni and their families are invited to attend the doubleheader against Pacific Lutheran for free.  If you did not get your coupon for free admission, please contact the Whitworth Alumni Office at at 509.777.3772 or alumni@whitworth.edu.  During halftime of the men's game there will be a reception with complimentary refreshments in the Scotford Fitness Center next to the Fieldhouse.  Raffles drawings for alumns will be held throughout the doubleheader.

The Pirates: Third-ranked George Fox started fast and kept the foot on the gas in its 75-48 win over visiting Whitworth last Friday night.  The Pirates struggled to get anything going offensively against the Bruins, shooting 29% from the field.  Whitworth played well defensively at times, but George Fox was able to outrebound Whitworth 52-26, including a 24-11 edge in offensive boards, that allowed the Bruins to take several more shots and get to the free throw line more often.  Kayla Johnson led the Pirates with 17 points and five rebounds.

Whitworth played better against 8th-ranked Lewis & Clark on Saturday, but the Pioneers were able to pull away over the final minutes of the game for an 82-70 victory.  Rebounding was again the downfall of the Pirates as L&C built a 48-28 lead on the boards, including a 25-10 edge on the offensive glass.  The Pioneers were able to get off 11 more shots and 17 more free throws, overcoming a solid offensive night in which Whitworth made 47% of its shots from the floor and 45% of its three-point attempts.  Lexi Belcher tied a career high with 26 points and grabbed five rebounds.  Emily Guthrie hit three three-pointers and finished with 12 points and four assists.  Johnson also had a dozen points for the Pirates, while Lauren Picha finished with ten points.

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 10th in all of NCAA Division III).  The Bucs also rank second in the conference in points per game (70.1) and team three-point percentage (32.9%) and third in assists per game (14.4).

Date

Time

Game

Live Coverage

Feb. 3

6:00 pm

vs. Puget Sound

Live Stats / Live Video

Feb. 4

4:00 pm

vs. Pacific Lutheran

Live Stats / Live Video

The Opponents: Puget Sound comes into the weekend 11-8 overall and 7-3 in the Northwest Conference, alone in third place in the league standings.  The Loggers won twice at home last weekend, defeating Willamette 70-51 on Friday and Pacific (Ore.) 67-47 on Saturday.  Puget Sound does a great job getting to the free throw line, leading the NWC in free throws made per game (16.3) this season.  Junior guard Kelsey McKinnis is the fourth-leading scorer in the conference, averaging 15.1 points per game.  She also makes 34% of her three-point tries, leading her team in made three-pointers as well.  Junior post Sarah Stewart is fifth in the NWC in rebounding average (7.6).  Senior guard Jocelyn Riordan, a two-time All-NWC honoree, is averaging 10.2 points per game and leads her team in minutes played.  On January 7th UPS pulled away late for a 74-68 win over Whitworth in Tacoma, despite 21 points and nine rebounds by Lexi Belcher for the Pirates.

Pacific Lutheran is 6-13 overall and 3-7 in the NWC heading into a Friday night contest at Whitman.  The Lutes lost at home to Linfield, 59-48, last Friday night before rebounding to roll past Willamette 71-52 on Saturday, also at home.  Pacific Lutheran ranks second in the conference in assists per game (14.9) spread out among several different players.  Junior forward Samantha Potter has been the beneficiary of many of those assists this season as she ranks second in the league in scoring average (16.9 ppg) while leading the NWC in rebounding (9.8 rpg).  Her shooting percentage of 53.7 is third in the conference, so she makes her shots count.  Junior guard Shelly Kilcup adds 12.9 points per game and is her team's most dangerous three-point threat.  On January sixth Emily Guthrie made five three-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Whitworth to an 80-67 win over Pacific Lutheran in Parkland.

NWC Standings: With nationally-ranked George Fox (10-0) and Lewis & Clark (9-1) setting the pace at the top of the Northwest Conference women's basketball standings, the battle behind those two is taking shape as well.  Puget Sound (7-3) is three games behind GFU and two behind L&C and alone in third place.  Whitman (6-4) lost to both GFU and L&C last weekend, falling into fourth place.  Whitworth (4-6) is two games behind Whitman and one game ahead of Pacific (Ore.), Linfield and Pacific Lutheran (all 3-7).

Lexi Leads 'Em: Lexi Belcher has been the Pirates' leading scorer this season, leading the team in total points in 12 of the team's 19 games.  Belcher is averaging 16.2 points per contest, which ranks third in the NWC.  She also ranks among the conference leaders in all three shooting categories: three-point percentage (37.8 / 4th), free throw percentage (73.4 / 10th) and field goal percentage (46.4 / 8th). 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 11.2 points per game, Guthrie has also added 3.0 assists per contest (5th in the NWC) and grabs 4.5 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  35.3% 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.

Picha Breaks Out: Lauren Picha is having a breakthrough season for the Pirates, averaging 10.1 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 11.2 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 (7.1 rpg) and steals (1.5 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 six games off of the bench this season, averaging 2.8 points and 1.7 rebounds.

Three SWX Broadcasts: Friday's game against Puget Sound will be the third of three games carried live this season by local cable station SWX. John Fritz will provide play by play, while Stephanie Freeman 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 against Puget Sound and PLU, Whitworth will hit the road for games at Linfield and Pacific (Ore.) on February 10th and 11th.

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 259-190 during her tenure as the Pirate head coach. Her current winning percentage of .576 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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