‘Cats Blast Toros 110-90 In Regional Opener
CWU's Jordan Clark had 18 points on a night where 10 different Wildcats scored at least four.
CWU's Jordan Clark had 18 points on a night where 10 different Wildcats scored at least four.

Friday, March 15, 2024
by Evan O'Kelly, Assistant Commissioner For Communications

LOS ANGELES – Reaching its season high in scoring on Friday night at University Gym, Central Washington raced past Cal State Dominguez Hills 110-90 in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Men’s Basketball West Region Championships.

The fifth-seeded Wildcats (22-9) will advance to a regional semifinal matchup against No. 8 seed Azusa Pacific (15-16), which upset top-seeded Cal State LA 60-59 earlier on Friday evening. After winning last week’s GNAC Championships crown on its home floor, CWU extended its winning streak to six games with Friday’s opening-round triumph.

In a game that got off to a back-and-forth start, with the score tied at 7-7 three minutes in, the Wildcats made a game-defining run early on in the first half. A jumper by Mitch Brizee kicked off a 19-4 push by CWU that opened up a 26-11 spread midway through the first. CWU never let its foot off the gas the rest of the half, stampeding to a 61-36 advantage by the break.

CSUDH, which finished its season with a record of 22-8, out-scored CWU 54-49 over the final 20 minutes. But it was far from enough to overcome the hole the Wildcats put them in as the lead peaked at 24 and never fell below 12 the rest of the night. CWU blew away its season high in 3-point shooting, converting 17 of 27 shots (63.0%) to top its previous best of 12 made threes in a game by five. CWU’s 17 made threes were tied for third-most by a GNAC team this season, and its 3-point shooting percentage was the best by any GNAC team this season (minimum 10 attempts).

GNAC Championships MVP Samaad Hector finished with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double on an evening where six Wildcats reached double figures in scoring. Jordan Clark led the team with 18 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including four 3-pointers. Colby Gennett matched Clark with 18 points, reaching his total by sinking a career-high 11 of 14 free throws. Camron McNeil had 15 points on an efficient 5-for-6 field-goal line, Bradley Swillie added 13 points and six assists, and Seth Dawson came through with 11 points in the well-rounded effort. All 10 Wildcats who played on Friday scored at least four points, nine different players had an assist and eight different players had at least one rebound.

The Toros were led by 26 points from Jeremy Dent-Smith, who converted 9 of 19 shots while adding five assists and four rebounds. Alex Garcia finished with 15 points, DJ Guest had 14 and Jakob Alamudun and Andre Ball chipped in 13 apiece for CSUDH. CWU shot a red-hot 56.6% (30-for-53) while CSUDH shot 52.2% (36-for-69). It was CWU’s fifth-highest shooting percentage of the season and the third game in the team’s last five overall that it shot 56% or above.

The teams were relatively even in turnovers, with CWU committing 16 and CSUDH 15, and while the Toros out-scored the ‘Cats 50-16 in the paint CWU more than made up for the deficit with its 3-point sharp shooting. CWU held a narrow 29-28 edge in rebounding.

GAME NOTES: Hector’s double-double was his GNAC-leading 10th of the season…Friday was the third all-time meeting between the teams, with the Wildcats winning twice in a series that dates back to 1988…it was the third time this season CWU eclipsed the 100-point mark, after beating Walla Walla 102-54 on Dec. 9 and topping Evergreen State 108-79 on Dec. 19…CWU evened the NCAA Regional series between the two at 1-1, as CSUDH picked up an 87-83 win the last time the teams met on March 13, 2009 at the regional championships in Hawaii…it was the second time the teams met in Los Angeles, with CWU winning 70-63 on Nov. 26, 2005…Friday was CWU’s first regional appearance since a 76-63 loss to Seattle Pacific on March 11, 2011…it was the Wildcats’ first regional victory since joining the GNAC in 2001-02.