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Wildcats fifth in GNAC, Northwest Nazarene up next

Quin Walker, Staff Reporter - January 23, 2013

The Wildcats will pass the halfway mark in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play next week against Northwest Nazarene on Saturday night in Nicholson Pavilion.

The Wildcats (10-6, 4-4 GNAC) fell to No. 6 Seattle Pacific University 80-71 last week and are currently fifth in the conference standings. After CWU plays NNU (9-7, 3-5 in GNAC) on Saturday, the Wildcats will take on the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves (11-4, 4-3 GNAC) on Jan. 31.

Nazarene enters Saturday’s matchup having lost four out of their last five. Junior guard Mark McLaughlin still leads the GNAC in scoring and has converted 54 percent of his shots from the field and 80 percent from the free throw line. Always a critical factor in games, McLaughlin will look to settle in to his scoring groove through his free throws.

“I have been trying to get to the line more, it’s easier to get yourself going rather than jump shots,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin hasn’t been the only one stepping up his game during the final stretch of the season.

Senior Jordan Coby has been providing very important minutes as of late. Coby averages 11 points per game while Senior Brandon Magee recorded his third double-double of the season in the Wildcats 80-71 loss to No. 6 Seattle Pacific last week, racking up 10 points and 10 rebounds.

This will be the first meeting between the Crusaders and the Wildcats this season. The player to watch for NNU is senior guard Kenny Jones. Jones, a former UCLA Bruin is coming into the game averaging 15.9 points per game and is the Crusaders’ leading scorer in 10 of 16 games this season. Jones has 45 points over the past three games staying true to his average. Head coach Greg Sparling noted Jones’ and the Crusaders defense.

“They have a lot of new guys,” Sparling said. “Kenny Jones has been playing very well for them. Hawkins does not turn the ball over very much. They mix it up defensively and keep you off tilt.”

The Wildcats will look to improve on their rebounding verus NNU, after recovering 15 offensive rebounds against SPU but only scoring six points.

Because of this Sparling’s main focus in practice is rebounding.

“In the games we have lost, rebounding has been a huge issue,” McLaughlin said. “They’re really scrappy and well coached, real competitive. Coach has been talking about playing a full 40 minutes, it’s easy to get up for the big games but when you are playing a team at the bottom of the standings it’s no different, you have to play every game the same.”

After the Wildcats play NNU, they will make the trek to face the Alaska-Anchorage

Seawolves on Jan. 31. The Seawolves are currently in fourth place in the GNAC standings and lost to the Wildcats during their last matchup 81-72.

Junior guard Kyle Fossman scored 24 points and collected five rebounds on 7-13 shooting and 6-6 from the free throw line.

“We will throw some things at him, but right now our focus is on Nazarene,” Sparling said.
“We will watch the tape, he is a good player, a winner.”

McLaughlin knows where the Wildcats can effectively slow Fosssman’s scoring and how tough it could be to come away with a win.

“We have to find him when he crosses half court,” McLaughlin said. “He is a good shooter, he hit a couple threes against us last time. We just need to be better defending pick and rolls, it’s always tough to win up in Alaska but we just need to play our game.”

Two wins this week can propel them into fourth place and knocking on the door for third.

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