Central Washington University made it an effort to improve its defense after being one of the conference’s worst last season.

Six games in, the difference is manifest.

Before the Wildcats matchup with NAIA Corban University (Ore.), Central ranked second in the Great Northwest Conference allowing an average of 69.4 points per game.

That statistic only improved as Central handled Corban, 82-67, at the Nicholson Pavillion on Tuesday.

Corban (6-4) came in averaging 94.7 points per game but was held to its lowest point total of the season. It struggled with Central’s man-to-man defense and shot just 41.2 percent from the field. Corban also committed 15 turnovers which in return, the Wildcats scored 24 points off of them.

It wasn’t Central’s best defensive start, as Corban knocked down its first 8-of-10 to stay within reach and eventually took a 27-26 lead after a 9-2 spurt. But the Wildcats brought more of energy in the final seven minutes including some full-court pressure which helped them build a 44-33 lead into halftime and even more in the second half.

“I thought we found the level of energy defensively that we needed there at the end of the first half and able to kind of build that into the beginning of the second half,” said Central head coach Brandon Rinta. “I thought that the first 10 minutes of the second half was our best stretch of the game and allowed us to create a little bit of distance.”

Central (5-1) shot 50.7 percent from the field and were led by senior transfer Davon Bolton, who tied his career-high in points by the half (18). He didn’t score any more points in the second half, missing all three shots.

He was 4-for-7 from beyond the arc and added three rebounds and two assists.

More importantly, it was a nice bounce-back game from Bolton who was scoreless in the last two games versus Colorado Christian and Evergreen State. He went 0-for-8 in that span.

On Tuesday, he hit 7-of-13.

“I just felt the team didn’t really need me to score like that in those games,” Bolton said. “I just did the little things, rebound, defense, bring the energy. Guys got it going in those two games, I didn’t really want to force anything. So, today was my day to do what I have to do.”

Three other players scored in double figures: Amari Stafford (15 on 7-of-9), Matt Poquette (11 on 4-of-7) and Tariq Woody (10 on 5-of-8).

Corban took its first lead of the game after a 9-2 run culminated by Jake Estep’s 3, 27-26.

Central, already forcing five turnovers, forced two more on consecutive Corban possessions and the Wildcats capitalized on each with a mid-range jumper from Jeryn Lucas and a Bolton lay in, 35-29, with 4:51 remaining in the first half.

From there, CWU held Corban to 1-of-5 shooting along with another two turnovers.

“We knew we had the tools to get up and press,” Bolton said. “We knew we could force them into turnovers and that was a big part of the game.”

Bolton scored on separate occasions in the final 18 seconds of the half. He drove in the lane for a basket and after Central made a quick defensive stop, he drained a 3 in the corner before the buzzer, 44-33.

Central made its first 4-of-5 shots to commence the second half with points each from Woody and Xavier Smith and then a quick five points from Poquette after Corban turned the ball over on back to back possessions. Just like that, the Wildcats led, 53-33.

Central would lead as much as 25 and held a double-digit lead for the rest of the contest.

The Wildcats won’t be back in action until Dec. 5 at home versus Seattle Pacific (2-4), the second-ranked team in the GNAC preseason poll.


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