Whitworth hosts Saint John’s, Mary Hardin Baylor for the Oakwood Classic

After traveling to Ohio and Colorado to play against some of the country’s best Division III teams, the Whitworth men’s basketball team will play two high-quality programs at home on Tuesday and Wednesday as part of the Whitworth Quality Inn Oakwood Classic.

The four-team event begins with a pick Tuesday at 4pm between Linfield and Mary Hardin-Baylor, followed by Whitworth vs Saint John’s at 6pm

On Wednesday, Northwest Conference rivals Whitworth and Linfield will swap opponents, with the Pirates taking on Mary Hardin-Baylor again in the second game at 6 p.m

All games will be played at Whitworth Fieldhouse.

Whitworth has made a 4-4 start overall (including a 1-1 record in NWC games), but three of those losses have come against teams who currently have only one loss: Mount Union, Carleton and Roanoke.

“I feel like we’re making great strides,” Whitworth coach Damion Jablonski said on Monday. “Obviously 4-4 isn’t a position Whitworth is used to, but… that’s always a possibility if you plan like that. I think our team is coming together and really learning what it takes to get it done at a level that Whitworth has done in the past.”

Last spring, Mary Hardin-Baylor hosted the pod Whitworth played in Belton, Texas at the Division III tournament. Whitworth lost their first game 77-52 to Trinity, but had the Pirates won they would have played in the second round against the Crusaders, who reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament last spring.

The programs last faced off in a regular season game in December 2015 in Las Vegas. Whitworth won that game 68-58. They also played twice in the 2012-13 season, both times in Spokane. Whitworth won the first, a regular season game; UMHB won the second, a D-III tournament game.

This year UMHB is 5-3 and just dropped out of the d3hoops.com top 25.

Saint John’s (Minnesota) is 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It also reached the NCAA tournament last season. This will be the first-ever matchup between the two men’s basketball programs.

“They’re super talented, they’re a good size and they share the ball well,” Jablonski said of the Johnnies. “It’s a great program in a good league.”

Rounding out the field is Linfield (4-4, 1-1 NWC), who will not play Whitworth this week but will play twice later this season: on January 21 in McMinnville, Oregon and February 17 in Spokane.

The Pirates are led this year by senior JT McDermott (14.6 points per game) and junior Jake Holtz (14.1). Senior transfer Michael Smith is averaging 13.8 points per match and leads the Pirates in 3-point shooting (24 of 45).

Jerry Twenge, a senior who graduated from Mt. Spokane High, is fourth on the team in points (10.5) and third in rebounds (5.9).

After those two games, Whitworth will wrap up his non-conference schedule on December 31 at home against Muhlenberg (Pennsylvania), who are currently 6-1 on aggregate.

https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2022/dec/19/whitworth-to-host-saint-johns-mary-hardin-baylor-f/ Whitworth hosts Saint John’s, Mary Hardin Baylor for the Oakwood Classic

Brian Ashcraft

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