With his favorite teammate and former low-post sidekick Nate Montgomery no longer around, Felix Friedt is being expected to shoulder a little bit more of the scoring load for Whitworth University’s men’s basketball team this season.
And the 6-foot-8, 242-pound senior forward from Dusseldorf, Germany, seemed completely comfortable with his additional responsibilities Friday night at Whitworth Fieldhouse when he scored a career-high 20 points as the seventh-ranked Pirates remained unbeaten by blowing away UC Santa Cruz 92-61 in front of an appreciative crowd of 1,025.
Friedt, who played last season in the considerable shadow of Montgomery, a second-team All-American who is now playing professionally back in Friedt’s homeland, was a 7 for 7 from the field against the Banana Slugs (4-7), who simply had no answer for Whitworth’s scoring balance.
Four other Pirates finished in double figures as senior guard Michael Taylor dropped in 18 points, Clay Gebbers added 14 and David Riley and Jack Loofburrow each chipped in 10.
And the Bucs, in running their home-court winning streak to 25, turned the ball over only four times, despite the fact that coach Jim Hayford emptied his bench with more than 10 minutes remaining.
But it was Friedt’s muscle inside that had the biggest impact
“If we feel like we’ve got an advantage somewhere, were going to attack,” said Friedt, who played only 23 minutes. “And tonight we felt like we had an advantage inside. My role has changed a little without Nate around, but he’s still irreplaceable, in my opinion.”
Hayford was pleased by Friedt’s effort.
“Felix is a big guy and he needs a little room to operate,” Hayford said with a grin. “So now that there’s not another big human down there, he’s got a little more space, and I think he’s enjoying that to the full.
“You ask your kids to play hard and smart. Felix is as smart as there is – both in the classroom and on the floor – and he plays extremely hard. So it’s nice to see good things happen to good people.”
Whitworth, after letting UCSC hang around for the first 10 minutes of the game, closed the opening period with a 13-6 run that produced a 48-34 halftime lead. By then, four Pirates – Friedt, Loofburrow, Taylor and Gebbers – had already scored in double figures.
And when the Bucs scored 10 unanswered points to open he second half, it was over.