by Corina Gebbers
The Whitworth men’s basketball team started the year with two wins this past week at the Fieldhouse, shutting down Universit of California Santa Cruz on Thursday, Nov. 17 and defeating Washington University on Sunday, Nov. 20.
The Pirates overwhelmed UCSC with a 70-54 win in their pre-season opener under new head coach Matt Logie.
“I thought our guys came out with a good energy level,” Logie said. “The first game is never the prettiest, but I thought we executed well.”
The Pirates jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead against the Banana Slugs, pushing the ball and taking the open shot. Junior guard Wade Gebbers sparked the Bucs with a quick three-point basket, his first of five during the night. Senior transfer guard, Idris Lasisi and senior forward Jack Loofburrow also hit three-pointers in the opening minutes, forcing UCSC into an early timeout. But the Banana Slugs continued their struggle to get a hand in Whitworth’s face during the rest of the half as the Pirates shot 51.7 percent to gain a 10-point lead going into half-time.
“We try to encourage our players to play with confidence and take what the defense gives them,” Logie said. “Credit to our guys for shooting the ball well.”
Whitworth continued its fast style of play in the second half, and rallied for an early 20-point lead (53-33) off a fast-break basket by junior forward Mack Larkin. UCSC hit its first three-point attempt of the second half, but the Whitworth defense refused them much offensive opportunity, while also out-rebounding the Banana Slugs by 22 rebounds.
“I thought we contained penetration defensively,” Logie said. “We were able to keep them out of the paint, and that’s something we focused on [pre-game].”
As the Pirates held on to a significant lead for the rest of the half, Logie took the opportunity to rotate his players, and Whitworth scored nine points off the bench in the second half.
“We’ve got a really deep bench,” Lasisi said. “And fans will see a lot of players step up on different nights [this season].”
Lasisi finished the night with 11 points, while Gebbers made the team’s highest contribution with 17 points, Loofburrow scored nine points and pulled down six rebounds and senior post Felix Freidt had eight points.
“Overall I think we did a really good job for a first game,” Lasisi said.
The win was Logie’s first as head coach of Whitworth’s team. Formerly the associate head coach at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, Logie was hired at Whitworth last spring after Jim Hayford took the head coaching position at Eastern Washington University.
“For me Whitworth really stood out because of the combination of the academic profile and their willingness to achieve athletically and set high standards both on and off the court,” Logie said.
He plans to continue the success that Whitworth basketball has seen over the past 10 years, and has coined the phrase “tradition never graduates” as a reference to the past accomplishments and future opportunities of men’s basketball at Whitworth.
“I think it’s important for our players to have pride in the people that came through our program in the past,” Logie said. “Part of that message is that as seniors we do graduate and we have an opportunity to leave a legacy and leave a tradition for the program. I want them to own that tradition and own that legacy.”
The Pirates continued action on Sunday, Nov. 20 against Washington University from St. Louis, beating the bears 88-66.
Whitworth won the tip-off, but started slow in the second game of the pre-season. Washington University took a 6-2 lead before Freidt scored a lay-in for the Bucs off a pass from Gebbers in the key to spark the Pirate offense. A series of three-pointers by Freidt and Lasisi tied the game at 13, and eight consecutive points by Gebbers gave Whitworth a 10-point lead. Whitworth shot 57.7 percent from the field in the first half, while holding its opponent at just 29.4 percent.
“I thought we really executed our defensive game plan,” Logie said. “We played with a lot of intensity and took away their offensive strengths.”
The Pirates got off to a great start in the second half after Gebbers hit three three-pointers to extend Whitworth’s lead to 30. The Bears went on a 9-2 run but their momentum was interrupted by a Freidt lay-in and two free throws. Gebbers hit his seventh three of the night and Lasisi scored on two free throws to hold the Pirate lead at 30. Senior forward Michael Taylor came in to contributed a lay-in off the fast break, and junior forward Matt Roth hit a three-pointer with one minute to go.
“We had some good contributions off the bench and hopefully we can get the same intensity from them as our first group gave us tonight,” Logie said.
Gebbers led all the players with a career-high 25 points, Lasisi contributed 18 points, five assists, and five rebounds, Freidt scored 18 points and Loofburrow finished with seven points. Overall the Bucs shot 53.8 percent from the field.
Whitworth will travel to Concord, California on Nov. 25 & 26 to face California Lutheran University and Chapman University in two more non-conference match-ups. The Pirates will tip-off at 10 a.m. both days.