It’s been a long time since the Whitworth Fieldhouse has seen a game this big, at least in January.
Neither has Spokane, for that matter.
Whitworth is 15-2 and ranked sixth in the nation in this week’s Division III poll, but they’re not even the top team in Eastern Washington.
That distinction goes to second-ranked Whitman Blues (17-0), who take on the Pirates in a Northwest Conference showdown Tuesday night in Spokane.
“Teams ranked that high - I don’t think that’s ever happened before. It should be a great game,” Whitworth coach Matt Logie said.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Whitworth is two games behind Whitman in the NWC standings, and needs to win to stay in the hunt to win the regular-season title. A win also would boost the Pirates’ resume for an at-large NCAA berth.
There’s also the revenge factor. Whitman was won the last three meetings, including a second-round NCAA game last March in the Fieldhouse. The Blues also won this year’s first meeting, 79-65 in Walla Walla on Dec. 6.
“That was a long time ago,” said Logie, whose team has won 11 of its last 12 thanks to an improved defense.
Last weekend in Oregon, the Pirates held Lewis and Clark and George Fox to under 37 percent shooting from the field.
“We’re doing some of the little things well, and our defense has really improved to a higher level than we have all season,” Logie said.
Whitman will test that defense with several weapons. Guard Tim Howell, the leading scorer in the NWC at 20.2 ppg, is coming off a 40-point night in a win at George Fox. Wing Austin Butler shoots a conference-best 62.5 percent from the field and is hitting half his 3-point shots.
Whitworth counters with Kyle Roach (16.5 ppg) and Christian Jurlina (15.9).
Contact the writer:
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.