CWU Looks to Knock-off Rival WWU

Coleman+Sparling+struggles+to+evade+a+block+going+up+for+a+lay+during+practice.
Coleman Sparling struggles to evade a block going up for a lay during practice.

Coleman Sparling struggles to evade a block going up for a lay during practice.

Jack Lambert

Jack Lambert

Coleman Sparling struggles to evade a block going up for a lay during practice.

Miles King, Staff Reporter

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CWU men’s basketball will take on rival Western Washington University (WWU) Thursday, Feb. 1 at home. The Vikings are coming off a 92-88 loss against Seattle Pacific University, and the Wildcats a 77-73 win against Montana State University Billings last Saturday.

The Vikings lead the GNAC with a conference record of 10-1 and an overall record of 15-4. WWU’s first and only GNAC loss thus far came against Saint Martin’s University (SMU) on Jan. 25 in Bellingham, Washington. SMU is currently third place in the conference standings.

The Wildcats tallied two GNAC wins against Concordia University and Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) on a recent three game road trip; the team’s one loss coming against the conference leading Western Oregon University Wolves. CWU is currently tied with NNU for the sixth best conference record at 6-6. The top six teams in the conference advance to the postseason.

The last matchup between CWU and WWU resulted in a 67-77 Vikings win in Bellingham. The Wildcats shot 38 percent for the game, below their season average of 45 percent. The Vikings shot a staggering 33 free-throws, compared to just 15 attempts for CWU. The Wildcats also scored 14 points off eight WWU turnovers.

CWU was led by Naim Ladd off the bench with 14 points, and had a total of four players scoring double-digits. The bench contributed 30 total points on that night, but the Wildcats still lost by 10 points.

“It really just comes down to rebounding. We played a good defense,” assistant coach Drew Harris said.  

In the last matchup, the Vikings dominated the boards by a 54-33 count, also grabbing 19 offensive rebounds, leading to 16 second-chance points.

“Everybody knows to box out… it’s just about who’s more hungry and who wants it more,” senior forward Jerome Bryant said, who grabbed just two rebounds in the loss.

The Wildcats were led in rebounds by senior center Fuquan Niles with 12.

“We gotta be more physical and do a better job of boxing out,” added Harris.

In three of the Vikings’ four losses this season, they were held to under 30 percent shooting. CWU held the Vikings to just 26 percent in their Jan. 6 matchup, but WWU still came away with the victory.

“We do a lot of scouting reports. We know who their best three-point shooters are and we try to do a good job of taking that away,” Harris said.

Senior forward Sage Woodruff had a standout performance against NNU on Jan. 23 and scored 26 points in a 99-89 victory on the road. Woodruff hopes to continue that momentum into the next few games.

“[I] just continue to make the extra pass to my teammates and hope they do the same with me… pass up good shots for great shots,” Woodruff said.

The Wildcats will need players to step up.  A focused rebounding effort and a stingy defensive beyond the arc is needed to come away with an important GNAC win against WWU.

“It would actually be pretty big. I know it means a lot to these fans, the alumni and everybody that comes to support us,” Woodruff said.

For Bryant, a fourth year senior, a win over rival WWU is important.

“I understand what the rivalry means now that I’ve been here for four years, so it means a lot to me,” Bryant said.

Unless the Wildcats match up with the Vikings in the postseason, Thursday’s game will be the last opportunity for the team to earn a victory over a rival this year. Although he may never play WWU again, Woodruff will prepare like any other game.

“I was always taught to approach rivalry games like any other game on the schedule. Don’t psych yourself out, just go out there and play as well as you can, control what you can control and play good basketball,” Woodruff said.

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CWU Looks to Knock-off Rival WWU