SALT LAKE CITY – The 13th-ranked Westminster College men’s basketball team opens the 2012-13 season with two games in New Mexico this weekend. Westminster plays at New Mexico Highlands on Friday at 7 p.m. in Las Vegas, N.M. That is followed with a 7 p.m. game Saturday at Northern New Mexico in Espanola, N.M.
Friday’s game will be the first meeting all-time between the Griffins and the NCAA DII New Mexico Highlands. Westminster holds a 2-0 edge against Northern New Mexico. They claimed a 100-52 win over the Eagles last season in the Behnken Field House.
This year’s team returns nine players, including two starters, from the team that went 21-11 last season. The squad features five seniors, while also welcoming in seven newcomers. Westminster was selected as the preseason favorite of the Frontier Conference coaches to win the league this season.
The team averaged 72.4 points per game last season and shot 50.7 percent from the floor, which ranks second in the NAIA. The Griffins also ranked second in foul shooting at 74.2 percent for the year. They allowed just 65.75 points per game, while ranking fifth in the country with a 1.19 assist-to-turnover-ratio.
Senior forward Jake Orchard was selected as the Frontier Conference Preseason Player of the Year. Orchard was an honorable mention All-American last season after averaging 15.2 points per game and shooting 53 percent from the floor. He ranked in the NAIA top 50 in field goal percentage and free throw percentage (.816) and also recorded 42 steals and 65 assists.