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High-scoring Whitworth set to take on defensive-minded teams at D3hoops.com Classic

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 28, 2018, 7:18 p.m.

Kevin Crosno (15) and Kyle Roach (1) congratulate Whitworth guard Jordan Lester after he hit a 3-pointer against Willamette on  Nov. 30  in the Whitworth Field House. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Kevin Crosno (15) and Kyle Roach (1) congratulate Whitworth guard Jordan Lester after he hit a 3-pointer against Willamette on Nov. 30 in the Whitworth Field House. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Whitworth’s past four games at its Fieldhouse didn’t feature much defense.

Against four opponents with a combined 12 wins and nary a whiff of a shot-clock violation, the Pirates took advantage and scored more than 100 points each game, something their men’s basketball program had never done.

That included a program-record 143 points their last time out against Concordia Chicago (2-8).

But that streak figures to end this weekend when the team heads to Las Vegas for two games in the D3hoops.com Classic.

They will face a pair of teams from out East – Johns Hopkins (Baltimore) on Saturday , Emory & Henry (Emory, Virginia) on Sunday – that went to the Division III tournament last season and play better defense than any of Whitworth’s recent opponents.

Whitworth, ranked ninth in the d3hoops.com poll, is 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the Northwest Conference, but its opponents are a combined 31-53.

The Pirates’ lone loss came to Texas-Dallas (8-3) in San Antonio on Nov. 24.

The Pirates have been highly efficient on offense, shooting 58.2 percent from the field and assisting on 112 of 181 made baskets in their past four games.

Johns Hopkins (8-2) and Emory & Henry (8-3) might be the two strongest teams Whitworth will face in its nonconference schedule, which ends after this event at South Point Arena.

“Johns Hopkins is a very good defensive team,” Pirates coach Matt Logie said. “They play at a much slower pace than the teams that we’ve played, but they shoot the ball extremely well. They put a lot of pressure on your defense in a different way. We have to batten down the hatches on the defensive end and continue to do what we do on offense.”

The Blue Jays haven’t allowed more than 78 points in a game but also haven’t scored more than 85. That suggests the high-possession pace the Pirates have played will likely end or at least be mitigated a bit by the Blue Jays.

Emory & Henry also plays better defense, holding opponents to 42.8 percent shooting from the field. Whitworth has shot 54 percent this season.

“The two teams we play are really good, probably the two best nonconference teams we’ll play this year,” senior Kyle Roach said. “Only high-quality teams go to that tournament, so we’ll be going in expecting two tough battles for sure, but we’ll be ready.”

Ten teams are competing at the Classic this season, with each playing two games across the four-day event. Whitworth has participated three other times, going 5-1 overall, including a pair of wins in its last appearance (2015).

Roach and senior post Ben Bishop are the only current Pirates players who played in that event, both coming off the bench.

Pirates players said they were eager for the opportunity to play teams that are stronger on defense and that the Christmas break they enjoyed wouldn’t set them back.

“Everybody’s gonna stay in the gym over break,” senior Jared Christy said after the Pirates’ victory over Concordia Chicago. “We should go down there and have some good games.”

After these games, Whitworth returns to conference play with a visit to Lewis & Clark on Jan. 4 . The Pirates then host fourth-ranked Whitman (8-1) on Jan. 8.

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