Male Athlete of the Year: Kenny Love

Sophomore Kenny Love was chosen as Northwest Conference’s Men’s Basketball Player of the Year after a dramatic season. However, earning this award was not an easy task. Love helped the Pirates make it to the second round of the NCAA DIII Tournament before losing by a single point to Emory University. Due to starting the season out on the bench, Love had to prove his talents by earning his way into the starting lineup and into NWC recognition.

Before Love took the guard position, sophomore Kionte Brown was in the starting lineup. However, when Brown suffered a knee injury, Love had proven himself worthy of stepping into the starting guard role.

Head coach Matthew Logie said Love’s play on the defensive end of the floor was what held him back at the beginning of the year. However, Love took his coach’s instructions to heart and improved his defensive skills.

“[Love] grew a tremendous amount as the season progressed and got to the point where we just needed to have him on the floor all the time,” Logie said.

Many of Love’s teammates have noticed his determination to the sport and his willingness to grow. Love said that during the offseason, he would dedicate 10-15 hours a week to practicing basketball.

“Kenny is a really hard-working guy. He’s always in the gym, before and after practice,” junior George Valle said. “I think it’s really showed his improvement from his freshman year to sophomore year.”

On Jan. 2, Love started as guard at an away game against Willamette University. From then on, Love played in the starting lineup. On top of that, Love proved his value to the team and helped the Pirates progress to the DIII Tournament. Of the 22 games Love started in, the Pirates lost only two.

“I was getting used to coming off the bench,” Love said. “It was nice to start at the beginning of the game and feeling the flow of the game right from the beginning.”

Love helped lead the team to some of its most impressive victories. On Jan. 9 during a match against Linfield University, Love made eight shots from the field, three 3-pointers and seven free throws, resulting in a total of 29 points. The Pirates won that match—79-66.

“His confidence on a whole went up along with the playing time,” sophomore Gabriel Carter, Love’s roommate and teammate, said. “I’m glad he got the opportunity, because obviously he’s really good at it.”

By the end of the year, Love had made an impressive 42.6 percent of shots from the field, 45.1 percent of his three-pointers and 85.1 percent of his free throws. On Feb. 24, Love was announced as the 2015 NWC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year.

“It’s nice to know that throughout the school, you guys saw me as someone who had a really successful year,” Love said. “I just hope that moving forward I could keep up the work ethic and standard for myself as well as my teammates and other athletes here at school that people would be proud of.”

Love’s teammates and coaches  are comforted in the fact that he is only a sophomore and has two more years still ahead of him. Love’s fellow athletes have also seen a sense of leadership in him that is expected to grow in the coming years.

“He does a lot of stuff for us statistically,” Carter said. “That type of leadership and work ethic and help that he gives the team doesn’t show up numerically, but it helps the team a lot more than people think.”

Love said one of the things that helped him improve was the team’s motto for the year—“Bigger Than Us”—and that his attitude and preparation for his sport helped his performance.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m starting or not,” Love said. “Just being able to bring whatever I could, whether it be from a vocal leadership standpoint or being able to lead from example. Staying focused, staying ready and staying with a positive attitude is probably one of the most important things.”

Love will continue playing basketball next season and hopes to play outside of college as well.

“The future is really bright for Kenny,” Logie said. “I think he’s very excited about the challenge in front of him in terms of continuing to take our program to new heights.”

 

Peter Houston-Hencken

Staff Writer

Men's basketball season ends with dramatic loss against Emory

After being fouled by sophomore forward Christian Jurlina with five seconds left in the game, Emory junior guard Davis Rao hit both shots from the free throw line to give the Eagles a one-point lead. A last-second 3-pointer from junior forward George Valle missed the mark and left the Pirates on the wrong side of a one-point deficit to end their tournament run. Despite 6-10 shooting from the field and 9-11 shooting from the strike for Valle and senior Adam Wilks’ 10-13 shooting from the field for a career-high 21 points to go with 11 rebounds, the Pirates could not keep the Eagles at bay.

“Adam did a really good job for us. He played the best basketball of his career that night,” head coach Matt Logie said.

Whitworth led Emory by three, 40-37, at the half with 26 of those Pirate points coming from the paint. However, Emory managed to keep their bench involved and put up 21 of their 37 points from bench play.

Points off the bench proved to be a key factor in keeping the Eagles around in spite of slim Whitworth leads in the last ten minutes of play. Sophomore guard Jonathan Terry put up 22 points off the bench and finished behind his teammate, senior forward Alex Foster, who was able to hit from all over the court as part of his 30 points and nine rebounds.

Foul trouble proved costly for both teams in the closing minutes but turned out to hit the Bucs hardest. Valle, senior forward Taylor Farnsworth and Jurlina all hit foul trouble early and spent significant second-half time on the bench. Jurlina fouled out with five seconds to play and was not able to make a run at the last-second shot opportunity for the Bucs.

“I think it affected our rotations. I think we got to a point in the game where we had some guys in foul trouble playing down the stretch and they may not have been in the game under normal circumstances,” Logie said. “We had to be a little bit more passive defensively and I thought it was harder for us to defend the rim and protect the paint down the stretch because of that.”

Farnsworth, who was limited to four points in nine minutes in the Emory loss has been dealing with a broken thumb for most of the season in addition to a leg injury he sustained in the last few weeks, Logie said.

“Taylor really just didn’t get in a rhythm whether it was fouls or just unfortunate circumstances. It was just one of those weekends for him and that happens,” Logie said. “You hate to see that happen to a senior, but we wouldn’t [have gone as far as we have] without Taylor Farnsworth and what he’s meant to our program.”

The Pirates finish the season 25-4 after going 15-1 at home and winning both the NWC Championship and the NWC Tournament Championship.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men’s basketball clinches NWC Tournament crown

After battling a tough Willamette team on Thursday, the men’s basketball team defeated an upstart Lewis & Clark team on Saturday, 69-58, for the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship. In a game with seven lead changes and only a five-point Pirate lead at the half, the contest would come down to the last few minutes before a definitive result could be determined. With the student section clad in white and the Pirate players sporting their white home jerseys, the setting looked like a good vs. evil matchup out of a movie as Whitworth opposed Lewis & Clark in their black and orange.

Head coach Matt Logie made a change for the starting lineup by starting senior forward Adam Wilks and having freshman guard Matt Staudacher come off the bench.

“We wanted to establish ourselves on the glass early on and really set the tone on the defensive side,” Logie said.  “When we were able to go in with Matt and play our traditional lineup, we were able to pick up the pace and the tempo and I thought it worked pretty well.”

Despite winning the tip, the Bucs could not get anything going early offensively. Both teams traded the lead for the first 10 minutes of play with Lewis & Clark forwards Bradley Carter and Carl Appleton providing very physical presences in the paint. In the last Whitworth outing against the Pioneers, Appleton finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds while scoring key baskets to keep Pioneers within striking distance throughout that game.

“It’s tough. [Appleton]’s a huge body and he knows how to use it,” Farnsworth said. “It’s just kind of about working early and trying to fight for position early because if he gets you buried, it’s pretty tough. He can just put you in the rim.”

However, early foul trouble and the Pirates’ effective full-court offensive push proved too much for the slower Lewis & Clark forwards.

“I thought it was important for us tonight against Lewis & Clark to try to play with some tempo and pace and get some things in transition because their defense is so good in the halfcourt,” Logie said. “You got to give your guys some freedom to attack and make plays and fortunately our defense was able to create some opportunities.”

Late scoring runs in the first half along with a 3-point dagger from sophomore guard Kenny Love at the buzzer gave the Pirates a 31-26 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

“We knew that their guards were really an area where we could try and get into the paint and free up things for others,” Love said. “Some of our basic sets where you throw it inside wouldn’t work so we tried to get some advantages there and that was one of them.”

After putting up 13 and six points respectively in the first half, Love and junior forward George Valle effectively took over the Pirate offense for the rest of the game.

Lewis & Clark would end up tying the game at 48 and taking a slim advantage off of a 3-pointer from second-team all-NWC guard Jason Luhnow at 8:08 to take a 51-50 lead. However, after a lay-in by Staudacher to retake the Whitworth lead, 52-51, the lead would never change again.

With the help of three 3-pointers from Luhnow in the last nine minutes, the Pioneers stayed within striking distance, but the performances of Valle and Love in the final 10 minutes made the difference in the end.

As Valle and Love continued to score, three steals and five blocks in the last six and a half minutes for Whitworth iced any chance of a Pioneer comeback. The game ended with the “Hack-a-Pirate” strategy for Lewis & Clark and the student section chanting, “I believe that we will win.”

Love led all scorers with 20 points while Valle, who was Mr. Consistent for the entire game, ended with 19. Valle said the multiple areas of talent from the guard position allowed Love and himself to be successful.

“Since we have so many good shooters, they don’t really like to help off of them if we put a good shooter in each corner. They can only help so much,” Valle said. “With that in their heads, Kenny and I are coming in with a full head of steam, attacking our defender and being able to create some good things.”

The Pirates clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with their ninth consecutive NWC Tournament crown. The Pirate matchup for the first round was announced on Monday. The men will take on LaGrange College in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday, March 6.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men's basketball defeats Willamette with five Pirates in double figures

A towel over the face of junior Willamette forward Brandon Luedtke with less than a minute to play said it all for the Whitworth vs. Willamette tournament game on Thursday night. Luedtke, an All-NWC First Team selection, fouled out with less than five minutes to play en route to an 89-64 victory for the Pirates in the first round of the Northwest Conference Tournament. Despite the one-sided end result, the No. 4-seeded Bearcats proved to be a tough bunch. A slow offensive start for the Pirates left Willamette leading 10-5, five minutes in.

However, with strong offensive play from senior forward Adam Wilks, the deficit was closed and the Pirates found themselves tied at 16 three minutes later. A pull-up 3-pointer from sophomore guard and NWC Player of the Year, Kenny Love, sparked a 5-0 run for the Pirates to put them up 21-18. They would retain the lead for the rest of the game. Wilks early performance foreshadowed the 52 points in the paint the Pirates would score in the matchup.

“[Senior forward Taylor Farnsworth and I] just bring a lot of experience. We’ve both been here before and when you have that kind of leadership on the front lines it can just steady the guys,” Wilks said. “When we don’t get off to a great start, when we have the ability to bring in myself, a senior off the bench, to just keep things calm and play our game it really is a huge advantage for us.”

A second pull-up Love 3-pointer would contribute to an eight-point Whitworth lead with six and a half left in the first. A lay-in from sophomore forward Christian Jurlina off a Bearcat turnover would be the only points for Jurlina in the first half. However, 12 points for junior forward George Valle and eight for Kenny Love in the first half were the beginning of a multidimensional scoring effort from all areas of the floor for the Bucs.

“I think the key to our offense recently has been how balanced it has been,” Valle said. “I think we had five guys in double figures tonight which means everyone is scoring, everyone is sharing the ball, passing the ball and getting good looks. I think that’s really the key as to why we’re being so efficient on offense.”

After generating a 43-29 lead at halftime, the Bucs continued their offensive onslaught with Wilks, Love, Valle, freshman guard Matt Staudacher and even Jurlina all reaching double figures by the end of the contest. Inspired performances from Luedtke with 12 and senior Bearcat forward Kyle McNally with 18 points and 10 rebounds would not be enough to overcome the Pirates’ 51.5% shooting from the field and 53.8% from beyond the arc.

Willamette came into the second half with spirited efforts on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor and the Bucs’ early attempts to increase the lead were stymied. However, a steal by Love three minutes in led to a one-handed dunk in traffic that put the ice on any potential Bearcat comeback.

“[The Bearcats] have a great heart. They continue to fight and they’re a hard team to put away which is why they made the playoffs in the first place,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We had a lot of respect for them coming in. We didn’t feel like we played our best in either of those previous matchups with them to date, but we were able to play a little bit better tonight.”

The closest the Bearcats would ever come was within 11, but no further. Love finished with 16, Valle with 19, Staudacher with 11 and Wilkes with 14. In addition, Jurlina highlighted the second half of play with another 14 points after just scoring two in the first half.

“They were playing pretty heavy denial on me [in the first half], but it actually worked out well because it opened up lanes and scoring opportunities for my teammates which is actually pretty good,” Jurlina said. “The second half they sort of stepped off a bit and gave me some space and I was able to utilize that to my advantage.”

Despite Whitworth foul trouble throughout the game, the only player in the game who would foul out would be Luedtke in the closing minutes. Missed opportunities from the 3-point line would prove costly for Willamette as well, going 3-19 from beyond the arc.

The Pirates advance to play upset-minded Lewis & Clark for the tournament championship after Lewis & Clark defeated No. 2-ranked Whitman, 84-73. The championship contest will be played on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men's basketball shares no love for NWC teams

It may have been Valentine’s Day weekend, but the Pirates showed no love for Northwest Conference foes George Fox and Pacific on the last home games of the regular season. After defeating George Fox handily 90-76, the Bucs blew out the Pacific University Boxers on Saturday, 89-50, in what would be their second-largest margin of victory this season.

The George Fox Bruins boasted a No. 2 ranked scoring average in the NWC coming into the matchup at 76 points per game; however, they would be without the NWC leading scorer Jonny Howard (17.3 ppg) who was excused by the coaching staff for the game. 

From the first Whitworth possession, the Bruins fell into a full-court press. The Pirates were not outwardly phased by the high-intensity defense early on, and junior forward George Valle set the offensive tone early with a 3-pointer. 

“I think there were a couple times tonight when we got a little flustered with their full-court pressure,” Valle said. “We started throwing the ball all over the court and turning it over, but I think it takes someone to make a play at that point and step up and calm the tide and I was able to do that a couple times tonight.”

In many ways, the first half proved to be a showcase of patented Whitworth-style basketball. As such, aggressive play on both sides of the ball as well as good ball movement on offense led to an early double-digit lead for the Bucs. A late first half run with 1:30 remaining by George Fox would prove frustrating for head coach Matt Logie as the Pirate lead was cut to 11 when the first half came to an end. Logie was even called for a technical foul for hitting the front of the scorer’s table as the team made their way into the locker room. 

“We were a little sloppy with our execution, a little sloppy with the basketball so we just talked about the things we do against the press and how to be better at it,” Logie said. “Guys just need to learn and grow from it. Some of these guys haven’t played against pressure like that very frequently and within our system so we’re growing and sometimes that comes with growing pains.”

The tight play characterizing the last few minutes of the first half continued through the first five minutes of the second. Logie began showcasing his frustration with referees more openly after foul calls and before time

outs. It took time for the Pirates to return to an offensive rhythm like the one they had during most of the first half. However, a 3-point-play opportunity from senior forward Adam Wilkes with 11:14 to go became the spark that would put the Bruins away for good. 

With 1:17 left to play and a 20-point Whitworth lead, the last of the starters were subbed out en route to a 90-76 Pirate victory. 

The Bucs finished the game shooting 50 percent from the floor with Valle adding 18 points and five rebounds to go along with sophomore forward Christian Jurlina’s 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Sophomore guard Kenny Love was noticeably quiet with his performance on Friday. In foul trouble early on, Love accounted for six points on 1-5 shooting from the field. 

Senior night on Valentine’s Day against Pacific began emotionally for Wilkes and senior forward Taylor Farnsworth as they were recognized by the athletic department for their four-year participation on the basketball team. 

“I can’t describe it, man,” Wilkes said. “I mean, I’ve been here for four years and to see four years of work culminate in not only a good game for me personally but, more importantly, a really, really solid team win against a good opponent. It means everything.”

While Valle started things off offensively with five of Whitworth’s first nine points as part of his 11 first-half points, Wilkes provided a significant offensive spark with eight points in the first half off the bench. 

Pacific’s star players in Mitch Wettig and Riley Grandinetti were held to just nine combined points in the first half as the Pirate defense stifled the Boxer offense under the basket and beyond the arc. In the paint, the Boxers were stymied with just 10 points and zero second-chance points as part of just seven field goals made on 26 attempts. 

The Pirates on the other hand were converting from every spot on the floor by shooting 50 percent from the field, 36.4 percent from beyond the arc and a perfect 100 percent from the stripe. Unlike the night before, Whitworth held their significant lead at the half, 41-23.

Despite the already one-sided game through one half of play, the Pirates continued their offensive and defensive onslaught and increased the lead to 66-32 with just over nine minutes to play. The lead increased even more to 39 points with six minutes to play before major substitutions were made. 

The 89-50 victory for the Pirates would prove their largest margin of victory this season since their 103-49 victory over D’Youville on Nov. 15.

“Tonight was probably our best full effort on both sides of the ball. We were able to put a whole game together so that gives us a lot of confidence moving forward that we’ve seen what that looks like on both sides,” Logie said. “Hopefully we can continue to execute like that moving forward.”

The seniors, Wilkes and Farnsworth, combined for 18 points in their last regular season home game of their college careers. Jurlina added 16 and Valle came away with 18 points for the Pirates as well. 

With these two wins, the Bucs close in on becoming the first NWC school since the 1965-70 Linfield Wildcats to win six NWC championships in a row. The two home wins also add to the over 150 home victories the Pirates have accumulated since the 2001-02 season. 

The men’s regular season will conclude with games on Friday and Saturday at Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound with the NWC Tournament to follow the week after.

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Basketball puts on a show at homecourt

The Whitworth men’s and women’s basketball teams took the court Saturday at the Whitworth Fieldhouse for the opening night doubleheader. Led by head coach Helen Higgs, the Whitworth women kicked off the night against nonconference opponent Eastern Oregon University. The Pirates started off slow defensively against the high-powered Eastern Oregon offense. Eastern Oregon scored 31 points in the first half shooting 54.5 percent from the field.

“The first half we were trying to figure out how to attack their defense in the most effective way. At halftime we talked about what adjustments we needed to make to our shooting percentage and on defense we needed to work on taking the ball away,” Higgs said.

Standout junior guard KC McConnell carried the Pirate offense in the second half, helping the Pirates construct their late comeback. McConnell led the team in scoring with 22 points.

“After ending the first half on a high note we really brought the energy to the game in the second half,”  McConnell said.

In the second half, the Whitworth offense overcame a 10-point deficit to eventually take a 13-point lead with 4:20 left in the game. The Pirate defense was able to hold on to the lead for a Whitworth win, 67-55.

In the second game of Whitworth’s basketball home opener, the men’s team dominated D’Youville University in a high-scoring 103-49 win. In the first half of play, Whitworth was strong on both sides of the ball scoring 54 points and holding D’Youville to 13 points. Going into half, sophomore forward Christian Jurlina put on a shooting clinic, scoring 20 points with three three-pointers.

Kari Johnson-6 copy

Whitworth continued to prove dominance over its New York opponents in the second half. Newcomer and junior guard Matt Staudacher had his first start at home for the Pirates. Staudacher, a transfer student from Canada’s NCAA DII Simon Fraser University scored eight points and dished out four assists.

“It has been a wonderful experience so far with this program,” Staudacher said. “Ever since I walked on campus I have had nonstop support from the fans, coaching staff and most importantly, my teammates.”

At the end of regulation play, Whitworth put D’Youville away with a final score of 103-49.

“I’m excited about the effort so far from this team this season. I felt like we moved the basketball around really well tonight,” Head Coach Matt Logie said. “We have to continue to grow defensively. We have to work on our principles and understanding of the defense we run.”

The men’s and women’s teams both play Thursday, Nov. 20, at home against Rutgers-Newark.

 

Joshua Omdal

Staff Writer

Going Mad for Basketball

Never is the Whitworth Fieldhouse so packed with fans as it is during a basketball game. But last Saturday’s event was not just a basketball game. Students packed the stands in Pirate garb and with excited expectations to cheer on their 2014-2015 men’s and women’s basketball teams during Midnight Madness. In anticipation of the upcoming season, Associated Students of Whitworth University and the basketball teams partnered to put on the annual event in celebration of basketball, Pirate pride and a new season of competition.

“Midnight Madness is a way to get the campus excited about basketball season. It’s a long-held tradition on a lot of campuses across the country,” men’s basketball Head Coach Matt Logie said. “Tonight is a celebration—an opportunity to introduce our players to the students, and to let them know who’s representing them as the season kicks off. ”

The teams started the night with warm-ups before selected crowd members competed in a dodgeball game. The game was only one of many competitions involving fans. ASWU went to great lengths to include the crowd in the festivities. Raffle winners had chances to compete in a dance-off, a half-court shot for a chance to win one semester’s tuition and blindfolded musical chairs. Competition winners received new bicycles, iPads, and gift cards.

“People come for the free T-shirts and giveaways. Mostly it’s the tradition of the basketball program, though, that allows [Midnight Madness] to be what it is and [draws] the crowds in,” junior point guard George Valle said.

The men’s team entertained the crowd with a dunk contest between sophomore Forrest Baker, sophomore Riley Moreen, and senior Adam Wilks. The judges—including President Beck Taylor and several members of the student body—named Baker the winner.

“I think my favorite event was the dunking competition,” sophomore spectator Katrina Ulnick said. “I came because I like the energy of the event. I don’t usually go to sporting events but I think it’s really fun coming to Midnight Madness and meeting the players.”

The teams also engaged in a battle of the sexes during a three-point contest between Baker and junior Briann Maley. Baker won again. The cheer squad then took the crowd’s attention with a halftime performance created especially for Midnight Madness. To wrap up the night and prepare the audience to support the teams this season, the emcees taught the crowd cheers.

“There’s a lot of excitement this year because [the women’s basketball team] is ranked nationally for the first time in pre-season,” sophomore point guard Jessica Thoens said. “We’re 24th, so this year we want to get people to come out to our games to support us, and to give them a reason to come out—to see us actually play and compete.”

Both teams’ captains asked the student body to come to the Fieldhouse on Saturday, Nov. 15, to support them in their season openers. The women will play Eastern Oregon University at 5 p.m. and the men will follow with a game against D’Youville College at 7 p.m.

 

Leah Dassler

Staff Writer