ELLENSBURG — Virtually no one’s been able to beat Northwest Nazerene as it knocked off seven straight GNAC opponents, most in convincing fashion.
No one, that is, except for Central Washington, which became the first team to beat NNU twice this season with a 64-59 win Tuesday night. The Wildcats ended the game on a 10-0 run and hit 21 of 24 free throws, including seven of eight down the stretch.
Jeryn Lucas stayed hot by scoring a game-high 28 points off the bench, including two free throws to tie the game at 59 with 2:06 left. The leading scorer in a balanced Wildcats lineup hit 4-of-8 threes and grabbed five rebounds to push his season average above 12 points per game.
“We’ve been practicing and the coaches (have) been on us,” Lucas said. “If you want to make that change, we’ve got to start now and that’s what we’re doing.”
Northwest Nazarene hadn’t lost since falling to CWU 72-70 nearly a month ago, and Wildcats coach Brandon Rinta said his team struggled to score against a tough defense.
He also credited Matt Poquette and Marqus Gilson for stepping up defensively, helping to hold NNU to just 43% shooting.
“I thought that was a big time gutsy win by our guys,” Rinta said. “It was not pretty.”
Central (6-7 GNAC, 13-8 overall) took over sole possession of seventh place, just one and a half games back of the final spot in the GNAC tournament. The Wildcats will try to complete a perfect four-game homestand Thursday against Montana State Billings before traveling north next week to face two of the three teams tied for fourth place, Alaska and Alaska Anchorage.
NORTHWEST NAZARENE — Jayden Bezzant 15, George Reidy 13, Diaz 7, Adetunji 4, Roth 0, Ezekiel Alley 13, Furgerson 3, Fox 2, Wihte 2, Murphy 0. Totals 25-58 4-7 59.
CENTRAL WASHINGTON — Davon Bolton 10, Baker 9, Smith 6, Gilson 4, Stafford 0, Jeryn Lucas 28, Poquette 7, Boykin 0, Pollard 0, Hudson 0. Totals 18-49 21-24 64.