WALLA WALLA - With two wins already under its belt, the Whitman College men's basketball team faces a pair of talented foes later this week when it hosts the Walla Walla Vineyard Inn Classic in Sherwood Center.
The tournament starts at 6 p.m. Friday when Pacific Lutheran, one of Whitman's Northwest Conference rivals, battles the NAIA's Northwest University from Kirkland, Wash.
Whitman then wraps up day one of the tournament when it battles NAIA-affiliated Eastern Oregon University at 8 p.m.
The teams swap opponents on Saturday with Eastern Oregon and Pacific Lutheran playing at 6 p.m., followed by Whitman and Northwest at 8 p.m.
Admission each night is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $1 for students. Whitman students, staff and faculty are admitted at no cost.
While Whitman is off to a 2-0 start, Pacific Lutheran split its first two games last weekend.
In a preseason poll of NWC coaches, Whitman and Pacific Lutheran (along with George Fox) attracted the same number of votes, finishing in a three-way tie for fourth place.
Meanwhile, Eastern Oregon and Northwest tied for second place when votes were counted in the Cascade Collegiate Conference preseason coaches poll.
Northwest and Eastern Oregon also made the NAIA's Top 25 national preseason poll. Northwest started at No. 16, two spots in front of Eastern Oregon.
Whitman showed plenty of firepower last weekend in rolling past Multnomah Bible College (121-68) and Portland Bible College (98-74).
Sophomore Peter Clark hit 10 of 19 shots from the 3-point line to average 16 points in the first two games. Ignas Pavilonis, also a sophomore, averaged 14 points and six rebounds in the two early victories.
Other Whitman stat leaders after the opening weekend are senior Justin Artis (13.5 ppg, 5.0 apg, 4.0 rpg), junior Brandon Shaw (12 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and sophomore Drew Raher (11.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg).
Juniors J.P. Alvarez and David Michaels averaged 9.0 and 8.0 points, respectively, in the openers while freshman Ryan Gilkey pulled down 16 rebounds in the two games.
Eastern Oregon Mountaineers
Eastern Oregon heads to Friday's game against Whitman with an early season record of 6-1. The Mountaineers crushed Portland Bible (102-66) and Multnomah Bible (146-63) to start the season and added a pair of lopsided wins over Walla Walla University.
Eastern Oregon ran its season-opening win streak to six with victories over Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain College before losing 84-78 to Carroll.
Thomas McCarthy, a 6-foot senior guard, is averaging 16.9 points and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 47.6 percent from the 3-point line (30-63). Jamar Johnson, a 6-foot-3 junior, has made 17 of 32 attempts from the 3-point stripe while averaging 16.7 points and 4.3 rebounds.
Other key players for Eastern Oregon include a pair of 6-foo-4 juniors, Travares Peterson (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jeff Ranstrom (8.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg), and 6-foot-7 junior Jason Mumm (8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg).
The Mountaineers were 23-9 last season when they reached the NAIA's Sweet 16 for a third straight year.
The Eagles, 4-1 to start their season, host Walla Walla University Tuesday night before heading to the Whitman campus later this week.
Northwest, which posted a 98-92 double-overtime victory over California's Westmont College earlier this month, has also notched a pair of early wins over two NWC schools. The Eagles blasted Puget Sound 110-58 and slipped past George Fox 86-81.
Jordan Call, a 6-foot-3 junior, leads a balanced Northwest attack, averaging 14.2 points along with 4.2 rebounds. Greg Peters, a 6-foot-8 senior, is shooting 58.1 percent from the floor while averaging 13.2 points and 11.2 rebounds. Peters also has nine blocked shots in his first five games.
Other Eagles with good numbers: 6-foot-9 senior Greg George (12.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg), 5-foot-11 senior Daley Landon (10.6 ppg), and 6-foot-2 senior Rich Skillman (9.4 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Pacific Lutheran Lutes
The Lutes take a 1-1 record into a Tuesday night game at Concordia in Portland.
James Conti, a 5-foot-10 senior, averaged 15 points in Pacific Lutheran's first two games. Victor Bull, a 6-foot-7 senior, added 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds.
Other key players for the Lutes are 6-foot-4 senior Kyle MacTaggart (10 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and 5-foot-11 sophomore Andrew Earnest (11.0 ppg).
While Whitman and Pacific Lutheran will not play one another in this weekend's tournament, the Lutes will return to Sherwood Center in early January for the first of two NWC games with the Missionaries.