CWu men's basketball

Central Washington University’s Marqus Gilson works inside against the Seattle Pacific University defense in Friday’s game at Nicholson Pavilion.

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The Central Washington University Wildcats had 28 personal fouls and committed 16 turnovers and still had a chance to win Friday night’s men’s basketball season opener against Seattle Pacific at Nicholson Pavilion.

Seattle Pacific (6-3) made four of its game-high 30 free throws in the final 17 seconds to beat the Wildcats 86-82 in a game that saw the lead change hands nine times in the final seven minutes.

“It was back and forth at the end, but I thought the game was decided in the first five minutes of the second half when we gave up the big lead,” Wildcats coach Brandon Rinta said. “We managed to calm ourselves and I was proud of the guys for doing that, but we just didn’t execute offensively down the stretch.

“We turned the ball over too much. It’s tough to win a game when you have 28 personal fouls and have 16 turnovers.”

Central Washington (0-1) had a chance to tie the game after Matt Poquette came down with a big defensive rebound, but David Thompson’s 15-foot jumper rattled out with 42.5 seconds left with the ‘Cats trailing 84-82. The Wildcats had another chance on their next possession.

Falcon guard Divante Moffitt turned the ball over with 29.1 seconds remaining, giving Central another chance to tie the game at 84-84. But Xavier Smith was called for palming the ball as he made his move to drive the lane on the ensuing possession.

Seattle Pacific, which had its five-game win streak snapped last week by St. Martin’s, made free throws down the stretch for the win on the road.

“We’ve been going hard against each other since September, so it was good to get a chance to play against somebody else,” said Thompson, who finished with a game-high 29 points. “It felt good despite the outcome.”

Central went on an 11-2 run to end the first half, taking a 43-36 lead at the intermission in a game that had no fans and an estimated 25 people, including scorers, medical staff and observers.

It was a back-and-forth game throughout the second half, but it was ultimately decided at the free throw line where the Falcons converted 30 of 33 from the line, nearly as much as they scored in the first half alone. The Wildcats were 16 of 21 from the line, 31 of 59 from the field with just four 3-point goals.

Thompson was 11 of 22 from the field and 3 of 7 from 3-point range for a game-high 29 points. Poquette, a 6-foot-6, junior from Morton added 20 points and five rebounds. Central’s Xavier Smith finished with nine points and five rebounds for the Wildcats, who travel to play Seattle Pacific at Brougham Pavilion at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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