Russel scores 26 in Wildcats' four-point loss to Northwest Nazar - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Russel scores 26 in Wildcats' four-point loss to Northwest Nazarene

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ELLENSBURG, Wash. -- Senior Sophie Russell (Olympia, Wash./River Ridge HS) scored a game-high 26 points and became the sixth player in Central Washington University women's basketball history to score 1,000 career points, but the Wildcats suffered another close loss in falling to Northwest Nazarene University, 58-54, on Saturday afternoon at Nicholson Pavilion.

The Wildcats fell to 6-13 overall and 3-9 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play. Northwest Nazarene, which earned its 14th consecutive victory in the all-time series, improved to 13-7 and 7-5 in the GNAC.

Russell, who moved into fifth place on the school's all-time scoring list with a pair of free throws early in the second half, was the source of most of Central Washington's offense, especially in the second half. She scored 18 of the Wildcats' 26 points after halftime, converting on 6 of 13 shot attempts including 4 of 7 three-pointers over the final 20 minutes of play.

The two teams played extremely close in the first half, with four ties and six lead changes. The lead see-sawed back and forth throughout, although neither team led by more than five prior to halftime. That largest margin belonged to the Crusaders with 2:46 left in the period, but CWU scored the final six points of the half and took a one-point lead (28-27) into the intermission.

The game remained close in the second half, although Central's only lead of the period was for 22 seconds right out of the halftime break. Northwest Nazarene went ahead on a basket at that juncture, and the Crusaders never trailed again the rest of the way, although the Wildcats tied the game twice at 37-37 and 39-39. Following the final deadlock with 12:03 left, NNU scored seven straight points over a span of just under three minutes to take the second of five seven-point leads -- the largest margin of the game for either team -- and CWU did not get closer than a three-point deficit the rest of the way.

The Wildcats were within three with 1:11 remaining following Russell's fifth three-pointer of the game, but they were never able to get a potential game-tying shot in the final minute. Northwest Nazarene sealed the win with a Heather Adams free throw with 5.3 seconds left to make it a four-point final margin.

Central Washington held a commanding 44-27 rebounding advantage over NNU -- the GNAC's number two rebounding team entering play Saturday. The Wildcats also made 40 percent from three-point range (8 of 20), but were outscored by five points at the free throw line (13-8) and committed nearly twice as many turnovers (20) as the Crusaders (11). Northwest Nazarene converted those miscues into 17 points, while also outscoring CWU by a 20-16 count in the paint.

Junior Stacy Albrecht (Federal Way, Wash./Thomas Jefferson HS) had 10 rebounds and Russell finished with nine for the Wildcats, whose plus-17 rebounding margin was their highest of the season. Aside from Russell's 26 tallies, no other CWU player reached double figures in the scoring column, as sophomore Jessica VanDyke (Chester, Mont./Chester-Joplin-Inverness HS) was the Wildcats' second-leading scorer with eight.

Northwest Nazarene had three players reach double digits, including a team-high 19 points from Megan Hingston, while Chelsie Luke added 16 and Briaunna King finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Central Washington will continue its season-long four-game home stand next Thursday (Feb. 9), hosting Montana State University Billings at 7 p.m. in Nicholson Pavilion.
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