CWU men take momentum, optimism into GNAC tourney opener with SPU

February 28, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — As Central Washington warmed up for its game with Seattle Pacific on Jan. 12 in Nicholson Pavilion, associate head coach G.E. Coleman said, “I’ll be really surprised if we don’t play well.”

Suffice it to say Coleman was really surprised.

He was also bitterly disappointed after the Falcons shot the proverbial lights out en route to a 76-49 pasting that might have marked the low point in Central’s season.

The Feb. 11 rematch in Seattle was much more competitive, with CWU falling 72-64, but nonetheless represented repeated frustration for Coleman and head man Greg Sparling.

“We did a much better job defensively,” Sparling said Monday night of the game he had just watched again on film. “We turned ’em over 16 times and created some opportunities for ourselves, but we didn’t take advantage of them.”

Much has happened since — most notably three wins in four games — and the sixth-seeded Wildcats (14-12) will take momentum, confidence and optimism into today’s first-round GNAC Tournament game with third-seeded SPU (21-6) at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion in Lacey.

Tipoff is set for 5:15 p.m.

“We’re taking better care of the ball and we’re taking better shots,” Sparling said. “Those are the two biggest changes. We’re making the easy pass, the simple pass, instead of trying to thread the needle through three guys. And we’re taking the ball to the rim now, or we’re taking the open 21-footer instead of the quick 26-footer.”

Improved offensive discretion has in turn fostered better defense — opponents often turned bad passes or quick shots into fast-break layups or transitional 3-pointers — not to mention improved rebounding.

In the first Seattle Pacific game, CWU was annihilated on the boards, 54-19.

A key to Central’s late season surge, however, has been sophomore point guard Lacy Haddock. En route to a team-high 16-point-per-game scoring average, Haddock has provided both explosiveness and stability to a CWU squad that beat conference champion Western Washington 89-82 in Ellensburg, and completed its run to the tournament with a 94-74 rout at fourth-seeded Western Oregon on Sunday.

In the Wildcats’ lone loss since the last SPU game, a 99-84 defeat at Saint Martin’s last Thursday, Haddock sat out with a knee injury.

“He hasn’t practiced,” Sparling said, “but he’ll play Wednesday.”

Should Central, the defending tourney champion, beat SPU it would get a semifinal matchup at noon Friday against Alaska Anchorage.

CWU has reached the NCAA Division II playoffs the last four seasons, but must win the tournament title for a fifth straight berth.


Today — No. 6 Central Washington (14-12) vs. No. 3 Seattle Pacific (21-6), 5:15 p.m.; No. 5 MSU Billings (15-11) vs. No. 4 Western Oregon (18-9), 7:30 p.m.

Friday — Central-SPU winner vs. No. 2 Alaska Anchorage (21-5), noon; MSUB-W.Ore. winner vs. No. 1 Western Washington (25-4), 2:15 p.m.

Saturday — Semifinal winners, 5:15 p.m.


Filed under All, CWU Basketball (M)

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