Brian Lester, NCAA.com
Central Washington head coach Greg Sparling is looking forward to getting his team back on a regular practice schedule.
It has been impossible for the veteran coach of the Wildcats to make that happen during the first two months of the season. They have played eight road games in three different states (Idaho, Oregon and Nevada) and prevailed seven times.
“We have played extremely well,” Sparling said. “I think the schedule is going to be a benefit to us in the long run. It’s going to be nice to have a full week of practice. We can gel more as a team and fine tune everything.”
CWU has the potential to be a national title contender. The Wildcats are ranked 11th in the nation and own a 10-2 record. They are 3-1 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, splitting a pair of league games over the weekend at home.
The Wildcats lost 98-93 in double overtime to Alaska-Anchorage on Thursday but bounced back Saturday with a 109-92 over Alaska-Fairbanks, blocking a school and conference record 16 shots.
That stat is not surprising. The Wildcats thrive on swatting shots, ringing up 67 on the season.
Post players Chris Sprinker (22) and Roby Clyde (20) have led the charge.
“We speed up the game, and while we may pick up a cheap foul or two, we do a good job of altering and blocking shots,” Sparling said.
CWU gives opponents headaches with its balance as well. Five players are averaging 10 or more points per game, with Sprinker dropping in 16.2 points per outing. Senior Jamar Berry is pumping in 15.8 ppg and has dished out 25 assists.
“We have so many weapons and it’s very tough to defend us,” Sparling said. “If we ever get all five guys clicking at one time, they sky is the limit.”
Need To Know
• Good teams win with great defense and Syracuse played well on the defensive end of the floor in a 70-58 win over No. 15 Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
The fifth-ranked Orange forced the Fighting Irish to shoot 42.6 percent from the floor, an impressive number when you consider ND came into this pivotal Big East showdown with the second best field goal percentage in the nation (52.5 percent).
Syracuse also forced the Irish to turn the ball over 15 times, nearly five more than their season average.
Kris Joseph took care of things on the offensive end. He poured in 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds as the Orange remained unbeaten through 15 games.
• Bellarmine seemed to have a firm grip on the No. 1 ranking in NCAA Division II until it stumbled against St. Catharine College last week at the Bill Joergen’s Memorial Tournament in Evansville.
The top-ranked Knights fell 79-74 to the nationally ranked NAIA opponent despite holding a 41-28 lead at halftime. Bellarmine struggled to defend the Patriots in the second half, allowing them to shoot 61.3 percent from the field.
Bellarmine, which received seven of the eight first-place votes in the last national poll, are 10-1 Knights and have since bounced back with two consecutive wins.
• Justin Gallo was a phenomenal football player at Union, finishing his career this fall as one of the top receivers in school history. He isn’t bad in basketball either.
The senior guard scored 51 points in two games at the Land of Magic Classic in Daytona Beach last week, including 26 in an 84-80 overtime win against St. Scholastica. Gallo has scored at least 20 points in four games this season and is averaging 19.3 points per outing for the Dutchmen (7-1).
Ian Franks and Justin Hallowell scored 25 points apiece as Wooster, the top-ranked team in Division III, survived an upset bid in Daytona, edging Baruch 79-77 at the Bahamas House Shootout on Sunday. The game featured 14 ties and 12 lead changes … Connecticut star Kemba Walker continued his remarkable year, scoring 31 points for the No. 4 Huskies in a 78-63 loss to sixth-ranked Pittsburgh in a Big East showdown last week. The Huskies have lost five of their last six conference openers … Keith Benson of Oakland registered his Summit League-leading 10th double-double as the Golden Grizzlies topped Oral Roberts 85-77 on Thursday night. Oakland has lost just once in its last 31 league games…Tampa is one of the hottest teams in Division II, starting 11-0 for the fourth time in school history. Behind the offensive firepower of Rashad Callaway (17.9 ppg), the Spartans are off to their best start since the 2000-01 campaign … No. 10 Augustana failed to score in the final 2:21 of regulation but still managed to hang on for a 57-56 win over 12th-ranked St. Norbert in the championship game of the Nicolet National Bank Holiday Classic. The Vikings did not have anyone score in double figures as it improved to 10-0…Arkansas State set a school record for largest margin of victory and points in a game in its 120-39 drubbing of Central Baptist … Oregon lost its final game at legendary McArthur Court on Sunday, falling 65-60 to Arizona State in a building that is the second oldest on-campus arena in college hoops. The Ducks will open Matthew Knight Arena, named after the late son of Nike co-founder Phil Knight, on Jan. 13 when they play USC … Tennessee State came up short in its bid to win its first ever game over a ranked team, falling 91-86 to No. 21 Memphis despite leading most of the way and shooting 50 percent (12-of-24) from beyond the arc … Franklin College overcame a 17-point deficit and even took the lead against eight-ranked Wabash before coming up short in a 77-74 loss to the unbeaten Little Giants … Nolan Smith scored a career-high 28 points as top-ranked Duke won its Atlantic Coast Conference opener with a 74-63 win over Miami. The win extends the Blue Devils’ win streak to 23 games dating back to last season.