CWU men’s basketball defeated rival Western Washington University (WWU) 92-81 Thursday at the Nicholson Pavilion in Ellensburg.
The Wildcats were led by freshman guard Khalil Shabazz with 24 points who shot 10-18 and added five steals. Four players in total scored double figures for the Wildcats.
In what was a physical and fast paced game, the Wildcats jumped out to an early 10 point lead at 19-9 with hot shooting and stout defense. CWU guards repeatedly hit senior center Fuquan Niles on the pick and roll for lay-ins and held the Vikings to a meager 5-13 shooting.
WWU closed the half on a 26-13 run behind improved shooting, assists and a strong effort on the offensive. The Vikings played well in the post on both ends of the floor and forced the Wildcats into the penalty with 5:20 left in the half. The period ended 35-32 WWU.
After yielding a 10 point lead, the Wildcats came out strong in the second half. They shot an impressive 87 percent on a 28-11 run; the Vikings just 3-10 during that time. The WWU offense consisted mostly of isolation plays leading to poor shots. CWU lead 60-46 with 12:30 remaining.
The Wildcats’ largest lead was 19 points at the 10:54 mark as the Wildcats hit a 3-pointer, stole the ensuing inbounds pass and drilled another from beyond the arc. The Vikings began applying full court pressure with just six minutes remaining. CWU was able to continuously break the press for easy lay-ins and dunks on the break. The Wildcats totaled 25 fast break points for the game.
The Vikings came within just nine points late in the game, but could not overcome the Wildcats. The Wildcats outscored WWU by 14 in the deciding second half, 60-46. Senior forward Jerome Bryant nailed four free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach.
“I work on my free throws, so it was pretty easy for me… I’m confident at the line every time I go,” Bryant said.
The Wildcats shot 75 percent in the second half, and 9-20 from beyond the arc for the game. Junior guard Malik Montoya contributed 10 assists and nine points for the game.
“I’m a good driver, I got a good first step. So when I get in there they sink in and I end up kicking it out to my teammates who knock down the shots,” Montoya said.
With this win being their fourth in a row, the Wildcats are now 12-8 overall with a 7-6 GNAC record. CWU will play Simon Fraser University next Saturday, Feb. 3 in Ellensburg.