Defense Earns Central Washington Team of the Week Award
Courtney Johnson led the Wildcats with 19 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season Saturday.
Courtney Johnson led the Wildcats with 19 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season Saturday.

Monday, December 15, 2014

PORTLAND, Ore. – The Central Washington women’s basketball team continued its season-long pursuit of being the GNAC's top defense Saturday, defeating Concordia 54-36 and earning the Wildcats Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors.

Central Washington only allowed the incoming members of the GNAC, who were 7-1 leading up to this game, 16 points in the opening half. For the second game in a row the Wildcats gave up less than 40 points to their opponents.

“We knew they were a solid team going into the game," CWU head coach Jeff Harada said. "They have a lot of great shooters and scorers. We slowed them down defensively and made them work for shots. No easy baskets.”

The Wildcats, winners of six out of seven games, forced 15 turnovers in the first half and 24 in the game which are both season highs.

CWU’s Courtney Johnson scored a game-high 19 points in the win. Johnson, who leads the Wildcats and is third in the GNAC in scoring this season with 17.1 points per game, added 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the year.

The 6-2 Wildcats are having their best start to the season since 2007. CWU has already won more home games than it did in 2013-14 and is one win away from matching its total wins from last year. The Wildcats have also already won as many conference games as they did in 2013-14.

Of the two losses Central Washington has this year, one was a four point overtime setback to the D2SIDA’s sixth ranked team in the West in Cal Baptist and the other was to Division I Eastern Washington.

This team is giving up a mere 55.6 points per game which ranks second in the conference and 15th in the nation while only committing 15.1 fouls per game, ranking 16th in the country. The 55.6 ppg is an improvement of more than 13 points from last year’s season average. 

“Our defensive intensity and team effort,” Harada said about why the Wildcat defense has been so successful this year. “We take pride as a team to make opponents work for baskets. We’re going to make it hard to score.”

They've done exactly that, especially in their last three games where the Wildcats opponents have averaged 39.0 points.

Harada has started this turnaround with a new system and a few new faces, but having more experienced players on the roster helps a lot too as seven players returned from last year’s squad including two starters.

One returner, Hannah Shine, leads the conference in three-point field goal percentage while another, Melanie Valdez, is second in assists/turnover ratio. Starting senior Johnson also ranks in the top 10 in the GNAC in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage and three-pointers made.

“The players have really bought into the program. They’re tired of losing," Harada said. "These players are very coachable and do everything we ask of them without question. They are working really hard and feel like they have something to prove. They are better than a last place prediction. They’ve embraced the challenges every day and are enjoying the process.”

The Wildcats will play in the Montana State Billings Yellowjacket Classic on Thursday and Friday before restarting conference play on Jan. 1, 2015.