Men’s basketball sets sights on second half of season

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Men’s basketball sets sights on second half of season

Hanson Lee, Sports Editor

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Men’s basketball is well underway as the Wildcats have already put together a 7-5 overall record on the season under the tenure of new head basketball coach Brandon Rinta. With last season marking the end of an era, after the departure of former men’s head coach Greg Sparling, the Wildcats have branded themselves with a new identity, incorporating a new coaching staff and rostering a new look.

Rinta expressed that the team has already been through it’s fair share of ups and downs, but that the strength of this Wildcat pack is nothing to look down upon.

“I like where our guys’ heads are at,” Rinta said. “They’ve been continuing to work hard and improve and they’re showing a tremendous amount of resiliency.”

It’s worth noting that the Wildcats currently hold a 1-3 record within the GNAC, but have stood tall with an impressive 5-0 start to the season at home. In their latest match-up, the Wildcats were able to defend their home court once again, outlasting GNAC opponent Montana State University Billings (MSUB) by a score of 111-102 and earning their first conference win of the season in an overtime thriller.

“The GNAC is looking tough this year, so any win that you come by is a big one.” Especially at home, you have to find a way to protect the home court.”

True freshman forward Malcolm Cola has shown high potential on the season thus far, averaging 10.8 points and 5 rebounds per game in 12 starts this season. Cola is one of multiple highly anticipated recruits to have joined the team this season and has stayed sharp for the Wildcats through their first 12 games. Cola emphasized that with all the new guys on the roster this season, the team has done a great job of building chemistry and coming together on the floor.

“I love this group of guys,” Cola said. “We’ve molded like brothers.”

Senior guard Malik Montoya continues to be a presence on the court for the Wildcats. The fourth-year senior is currently averaging 10.6 points per game to along with 3.4 assists per game on the season. As a leader, Montoya is striving to maintain a high level of production on the court and be that spark for when his teammates need him.

“I’ve had a couple good games and I’ve been great offensively,” Montoya said. “Personally, I’ve struggled defensively the past couple games, but overall, I think I’m very efficient for the team.”

With some extra years under his belt, Montoya is one of the remaining Wildcats to have experienced this team’s grow and change over the years. Montoya said with all of the transitions that occurred, especially since the end of last season, the team has done a good job of remaining positive and making a strong effort to buy into what Rinta and his coaching staff have to offer.

With more action to come, the men will gear up for a two-game homestand with Simon Fraser making a visit on Thursday, January 10, followed by rival Western Washington University coming to town on Saturday, January 12. Rinta stressed that his biggest focus for the team at the moment is to continue getting his guys better defensively as well as with rebounding.

“It’s gonna be a good test for us,” Rinta said.