Basketball opens season with a win

Austin Lane, Senior Sports Reporter

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The CWU Men’s Basketball team kicked off their 2019-2020 campaign with an exhibition win against the University of Idaho (UI) Vandals by a final score of 88-81. The game was a chance for the Wildcats to get on the court and face another team in a game setting without feeling the pressure of a regular season game that counts towards the final season record. It also gave head coach Brandon Rinta a chance to see how his team is gelling in the early stage of the season.

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“I’ve been really impressed with the elevated level of communication and leadership out of our returners,” Rinta said. “It’s been a perfect combination of the energy of the new crew of guys coming in and together I think as a group they’re excited about what they can do.”

10 out of the 15 players on the team are transfers from other schools and less than half of the team are returning players from last season. The identity of the team is yet to be found, but the win over Idaho is a starting point.

“It takes some time to really put your thumb on what a team’s identity is going to be. I know what it’s been so far, they’ve had great energy, they’ve had great focus and we seem to take pride on the defensive end,” Rinta said. “I hope that’s a sign of things to come and what our true identity is going to be.”

For the preseason poll, CWU was picked to finish sixth in the GNAC, after finishing tenth in conference last year. Western Washington was picked to finish first, then in order from second to fifth in the poll is Seattle Pacific, Simon Fraser, Alaska Anchorage and Montana State Billings Universities.

Guard Gamaun Boykin won’t let the preseason poll distract him or his teammates from what actually matters. In fact, it’s only going to give the team more motivation. 

“At the end of the day that’s gonna make us work harder,” Boykin said. “We know what we’re capable of and where we want to be at the end of the season.”

As a team the Wildcats shot 12-for-22 from three, which Rinta said was “a big part of the game of basketball” and that any time the team shoots well from the perimeter they will be in a position to win.

One of the goals the Wildcats couldn’t meet was winning the rebounding battle. Idaho out-rebounded CWU 38-33 in the ball game. The Wildcats added size to the team in the offseason, which Rinta said was one of the things that needed improvement. However, the expectations of Idaho’s rebounding abilities were exceeded.

“They were a better rebounding team than I expected,” Rinta said. “Not that we couldn’t have, but we didn’t quite reach that goal.”

Guard Davon Bolton had a good night on the court against Idaho, shooting 7-for-12 for a team-leading 20 points. Bolton also shot 6-for-8 from three. Xavier Smith finished with 16 points, two assists and five rebounds. Boykin had 13 points on the night to go along with four assists and three rebounds. Tariq Woody had eight points, three assists and three rebounds and 

Matt Poquette rounded out the starting lineup with four points, one assist and one rebound.

“We had a few too many turnovers … but it was a good first showing for us, we came out and followed the game plan and got the win,” Poquette said. 

Poquette also talked about the chemistry on the team. He believes the team is all on the same page as they get ready for the regular season to begin.

“I think everyone has bought in on what coach has laid out for us to do so there’s no problems on that end, everything was good,” Poquette said.

The Wildcats officially begin their 2019 campaign on Nov. 8, when they take on California State University Monterey Bay. The game is part of a tournament CWU is hosting, the CWU West Region Crossover. The next night the Wildcats will take on California State University San Bernardino. Both games are in the Nicholson Pavilion.