The Whitworth men’s basketball team is halfway home.
At the midpoint of the Northwest Conference season, the Pirates are ranked fourth in the nation and are a safe bet to host a first-round game in the conference postseason tournament on Feb. 22.
Whitworth (15-2 overall, 7-1 NWC) also can take another step toward a possible NCAA Tournament berth this weekend with home wins against Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound.
Friday’s game will be special for senior forward Jared Christy, a star at Ferris High School who played for three years at PLU before transferring to Whitworth this season.
The adjustment has been smooth. An all-NWC second-team pick last year for the Lutes, Christy leads the conference with 9.7 rebounds and double-doubles with eight.
Two weeks ago in a win over George Fox, Christy had 17 rebounds, the most by a Whitworth player since Nate Montgomery had 18 in 2009.
This will be Christy’s last encounter with his former teammates. The Pirates took the first meeting 88-70 in Tacoma on Dec. 2.
The Lutes (4-12, 1-7) lead the NWC in fewest fouls committed per game (16.8). Sophomore forward Leighton Kingma averages 11.8 points while making 42 percent of his 3-point shots.
On Saturday, the Pirates have a chance to put some distance between themselves and one of their closest pursuers. UPS is 12-4 overall and tied for third with Linfield at 5-3 in league play.
The Loggers average 98.7 points per game and lead the NWC in 3-pointers made at 13.1. Junior guard Jimmy Wohrer leads the league with a 21.8 scoring average.
Kyle Roach, the only returnee from Whitworth’s starting lineup last year, is averaging 17.9 points.