Whitworth learned its lesson not to count on past results as an indicator for future outcomes.
The Pirates were alone in first place in the Northwest Conference headed into a game last Friday at Linfield, a team Whitworth trounced 90-43 just two weeks before. The Pirates lost 71-65 in the rematch, creating a three-way tie involving those two teams and Pacific Lutheran for the top spot in the league standings.
Linfield lost 69-66 at Pacific on Tuesday night, however, which cleared one obstruction from Whitworth’s path to an NWC regular-season crown. The 21st-ranked Pirates (17-3, 10-2 NWC) can clear the other Friday night when they travel to Tacoma to play PLU (15-6, 10-2) at 8 p.m.
Whitworth shot a blistering 14 for 26 on 3-point attempts to fuel a 97-69 win over the Lutes at the Fieldhouse on Jan. 15. Duplicating that performance will be a tall order at PLU’s Olson Gymnasium. The Lutes have won five straight games, the league’s longest active streak.
Lutes guard Seth Hall leads the NWC averaging 20.9 points per game, and he collects 6.5 rebounds per game. Senior guard Jordan Thomas (11.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists) and junior forward Sean McCurdy (11.0 points, 6.6 rebounds) are active complementary players.
Much of PLU’s success hinges on Hall’s ability to generate buckets, and he did get loose for 19 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the first showdown with the Pirates. Whitworth counters with a remarkably balanced offense that includes five players averaging double figures in scoring and another four players posting more than seven points per game.
Forward JT McDermott and guard Garrett Paxton have ramped up their production in conference play for the Pirates. The two seniors are scoring 15.0 and 14.5 points a game, respectively, against NWC opponents.
Whitworth plays at Puget Sound (8-13, 3-9) on Saturday at 6 p.m., the Pirates’ sixth road game since Jan. 21.
The Loggers, too, have a prolific scorer. Sophomore guard Paul Johnson is scoring 19.4 points a game and is shooting 42.7% (44 for 103) on 3-point shots entering the weekend.
The Pirates will complete their conference slate next weekend with home games against George Fox (Friday) and Lewis and Clark (Saturday).
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