Men’s basketball starts second half of season

Tyler Hurlburt

Credit: Brandon Fennell

On Saturday, Jan. 22 a packed house cheered on the Whitman men’s basketball team as it trounced Pacific University 94-65. This win put the Missionary men at 4-4 against Northwest Conference opponents and 11-6 overall.

With its 4-4 record the team finds itself in a tie for fourth place in the NWC with Linfield College. This position is exactly where the Missionaries were predicted to be in a pre-season poll of the coaches in the conference.

According to sophomore Peter Clark, the team enjoys the fact that they are on track with preseason predictions, but they are still aiming to exceed these expectations and scale the standings.

“We are definitely looking to move up,” Clark said. “We have our sights set on second or third.”

Junior Brandon Shaw agrees that the team should be able to improve its record, especially since the team has been on the road for most of the season up to this point.

“We see ourselves moving up because we only had three of our first eight conference games at home,” said Shaw.

Head coach Eric Bridgeland feels that the team has performed very well up to this point despite having to battle through injuries and playing with a young team.

“We have persevered through significant adversity. Losing sophomore returning starter LuQuam Thompson to an ACL on the first day of practice set us back a bit,” Bridgeland said. “We continue to pick up torn tendons, badly bruised shooting hands and severe tendinitis in some of our key players, yet we are pushing forward.”

The team has been playing particularly well recently, winning nine of the last 11 games played. According to Bridgeland, this success has come largely from the attitude the team brings into the games.

“We have played noticeably harder and were tougher than our opponents,” said Bridgeland.

Shaw sees the team’s future success depending on how well it can uphold this attitude.

“We need to be more consistent with our identity. We run; we play harder than anyone,” said Shaw. “It’s a matter of holding ourselves to that every game.”

The team begins the second half of its conference schedule with home games against Lewis & Clark and Linfield on January 28 and 29. These two games will play a large role on the outcome of the season for Whitman because Lewis & Clark and Linfield are second and tied for fourth respectively. For Whitman, to challenge the upper half of the conference, the team must win against these two opponents.

Whitman lost to both teams in December while on the road, but look for victories at home if the team wishes to get into the postseason. In order to make the postseason, the team must finish in the top four teams in the NWC. If Whitman makes the postseason, there would be an opportunity to win the conference.

“These are two of the teams we are battling for playoff spots,” Clark said.

Bridgeland also feels that these games are important in terms of respect for his team.

“I believe we are something like 1-29 versus Lewis & Clark in the last 30 contests and we haven’t beaten Linfield in six years, so it’s a respect issue for our program at this point,” Bridgeland said.

The players look forward to finishing the season with five of eight games at home because of the atmosphere and excitement that comes with playing on their home court.

“Saturday night [January 22] was an absolutely packed house and it was one of the most exciting games I have played at Whitman,” Clark said.

Shaw also expressed how much of an impact home fans can have on games.

“With the crowd behind us, we should be able to do some great things,” he said.

Whitman plays Lewis & Clark and Linfield on Friday, Jan. 28 and Saturday, Jan. 29 respectively. Both games start at 8 p.m. after the women’s team faces off these teams too.

Credit: Brandon Fennell