Whitworth faces a tall task in the semifinals of the Northwest Conference men’s basketball tournament.
Linfield – and its collection of sizable talent – visits the Whitworth Fieldhouse tonight in a showdown between teams that split a pair of games in the regular season. The game tips off at 7.
The third-seeded Wildcats (12-13, 10-6 NWC) tasted victory first in the teams’ initial matchup in January. Forward Erik Olson collected 24 points and 10 rebounds to pace Linfield’s 88-79 win. K.C. Wiser, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, added 21 points, including a 4-for-7 effort beyond the arc.
The Pirates (20-5, 12-4) slowed Olson and Wiser in the rematch – the duo combined for a more palatable 32 points – and four Whitworth players scored at least 16 points in an 82-70 victory.
The Pirates scored 50 points in the second half to pull away.
Linfield is better than its sub-.500 record indicates. The Wildcats can create mismatches on both ends of the floor with five players 6-6 or taller and Olson at 6-4. They outrebounded Whitworth 70-56 in the previous two contests and collected 21 on the offensive end.
Puget Sound (23-2, 16-0) became the first team to finish the NWC regular season undefeated, and the Loggers will host the fourth-seeded Lewis & Clark Pioneers (16-9, 10-6) in today’s other semifinal.
The semifinal winners will meet at the site of the highest remaining seed on Saturday to determine the conference’s automatic entrant in the NCAA Division III tournament.
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