Whitworth opens 2013 with a new, loftier status in Division III men’s basketball.
The Pirates finished the 2012 portion of their schedule with a New Year’s Eve win at home against Hamline while ranked No. 11 in the nation, according to D3Hoops.com, the official poll of Division III college basketball. The first 2013 poll has Whitworth climbing to No. 6, thanks to a 10-game win streak that saw the Pirates sweep a three-game road trip to Southern California and win back-to-back home games to close out December.
The Pirates play tonight in Forest Grove, Ore., against Pacific. The game is a Northwest Conference opener for the Boxers (6-3).
The Pirates (10-1 overall, 2-0) swept NWC teams Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound last month and face a pair of games in Oregon as the focus now shifts to conference play. They are in Portland Saturday to take on the Pioneers of Lewis & Clark (6-5, 0-2).
Whitworth and Whitman enter the weekend tied atop the NWC. The Missionaries (8-3) also play with Lewis and Clark and Pacific this weekend. Whitman plays the Pirates in the Fieldhouse on Tuesday.
The Pirates are healthy and their play shows it. They average 73.9 points per game while holding opponents to just 61.5, all while shooting 48.7 percent from the floor, 35.9 percent from 3-point range and 72.7 percent from the line.
Junior Dustin McConnell and freshman George Valle both are among the conference leaders in scoring, at 12.9 and 12.4 points ppg, respectively.
Whitworth has been ranked in 41 consecutive D3Hoops.com Top 25 polls, dating to the 2009-10 season.
• A Hamline University basketball player is accused of punching a woman while the team was in Spokane last weekend to play Whitworth, according to an Associated Press report.
Eighteen-year-old Eugene Lawrence III appeared in Spokane County Superior Court Wednesday on a second-degree assault charge.
Steve Bray, of Portland, says his 20-year-old daughter, Kayla, was visiting another Hamline player she knew from high school at the team’s hotel on New Year’s Eve. Bray says his daughter got in an argument with Lawrence at the hotel. He’s accused of punching her in the face and knocking her to the floor. KXLY reported that Bray suffered a broken jaw.
The St. Paul, Minn., school says Lawrence has been placed on interim suspension from the basketball team and the school.