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Whitworth’s foe anything but a blast from past

Whitworth has a bit of history with Wheaton College, and the Pirates hope history doesn’t repeat itself Tuesday night at the Fieldhouse.

Ten years ago, Whitworth reached its first Division III Sweet 16 under former coach Jim Hayford. They went no further, partly because national player of the year Kent Raymond went off for 47 points.

In their first meeting since then, seventh-ranked Whitworth must contend with another high-scoring Wheaton player in Aston Francis.

The junior ranks third in DIII with 27.9 points, and is averaging 34 points his last five games for the Thunder (6-3). The 6-foot-1 Francis also averages 4.9 assists.

Whitworth (8-0 overall and 2-0 in the Northwest Conference) last played on Dec. 10 in an 85-73 home win over Colorado College. The Pirates led for the final 35 minutes of the game and by as many as 21 points with about five minutes to play.

Along the way, Whitworth held the Tigers to less than 40 percent shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers.

The win extended Whitworth’s national best of 30 straight regular-season wins. The Pirates haven’t lost a nonconference game since November 2014.

The Pirates are getting balanced scoring this season, but guard Kyle Roach is filling the stat line with 10.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and four boards. Roach, a second-team all-NWC pick last year, also is hitting 43 percent from 3-point range.

Guard Ben College has been even more accurate, shooting 47.6 percent from beyond the arc while averaging a team-leading 20.3 points.

Wheaton, which plays in the Collegiate Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin, is ranked nationally in blocked shots (20th at 5.1 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (23rd and 1.43).

Whitworth will break for the Christmas holiday next week, then host the Whitworth Men’s Classic on Dec. 29-30 against Calvin College and Wisconsin-Stout.


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