Wildcats sink Vikings fleet

Austin Lane, Sports Editor

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CWU Men’s Basketball defeated Western for the first time in two years on Saturday. Brandon Rinta got his first win over the Vikings as head coach for CWU, with a final score of 82-60.

  1. That was the number of days since CWU Men’s Basketball last defeated Western Washington University (WWU) going into Saturday night’s home game against the Vikings. 

Times were much different exactly two years prior when they last saw the win column over their rivals from Bellingham. The only player still at CWU from that 2017-18 season is junior forward Malcolm Cola. Even the coaching staff has been completely revamped since the win two years ago, with the departure of head coach Greg Sparling after the conclusion of that season.

When current head coach Brandon Rinta started his coaching career at CWU, he took over a program that saw some players transfer just because Sparling wasn’t the coach anymore. In his first season (2018-19) CWU went just 5-15 in GNAC conference games. With the win over WWU on Saturday night, and a win over Northwest Nazarene University on Tuesday, the team has bested their win total from last season and are now 6-7 with seven games left on the season. 

Paneal Holland

The CWU defense came to play, allowing just 24 points to the Vikings in the first half of the contest. CWU also forced turnovers throughout the game, stealing the ball nine times. CWU outrebounded WWU 35-29 on the night, with junior forward Kevin Baker accounting for seven of those rebounds for the team.

Baker was tasked with defending 7-foot center Logan Schilder, who made his return after missing three games due to injury. Schilder came into the night third in blocked shots in the GNAC with 1.6/game and sixth in rebounding, averaging 6.8/game. He finished the night with zero blocks and seven rebounds on 10 points.

“It’s tough. He’s a really big dude, but I have help from my team,” Baker said. “If I’m boxing him out they’re gonna try to tip the ball out from behind if I’m focusing on him. It’s a team effort to guard him because he’s so big.”

In the first half, freshman guard Micah Pollard hit back-to-back threes, playing a role in the Wildcats’ 21-3 run that gave them a 28-13 lead 14 minutes into the contest. Junior guard Xavier Smith had a breakout night, finishing with 25 points for the Wildcats. 

“We all just played as a team, played with confidence, we played hard, and we really bought in on the defensive end,” Smith said. “We really wanted this win and we went out and executed.”

CWU controlled the pace throughout the game, especially at the end. With a 67-44 lead and under 10 minutes on the clock, CWU’s offense shifted into a time management game plan, draining the play clock down on nearly every possession. That tactic worked for Rinta and the Wildcats as they cruised through the final minutes of the game, securing Rinta’s first win over WWU as the head coach for CWU.

“This is a special rivalry,” Rinta said. “It’s changed a little bit over the years since [Western has] dropped football… the community knows about it and everybody that’s been a part of this program knows about this rivalry and so that makes tonight a little bit extra special.”